GRIMSBY Town closed the gap to the play-off places to just one point as they beat struggling Notts County at Blundell Park.
After losing to Exeter on home turf last week, the Mariners got back to winning ways as goals from Omar Bogle and Scott Vernon sealed the three points.
After a first half of few chances, Bogle’s strike proved to be the difference between the two sides, although the hosts took control after the interval and made the result safe with Vernon’s first goal for the club.
Three changes were made to the Town side as they looked to bounce back from the disappointment of last week’s reverse.
New signings Chris Clements and Jamey Osborne were brought straight into the midfield, with Vernon recalled in attack as the third of this week’s new arrivals, striker Akwasi Asante, had to settle for a place on the bench.
Dean Henderson continued in goal, with Andrew Boyce, Shaun Pearson and Danny Collins forming an unchanged central defensive trio.
Zak Mills, Clements, Brandon Comley, Osborne and Danny Andrew were the midfielders, with Bogle partnering Vernon up front.
Joining Asante on the substitutes’ bench were James McKeown, Ben Davies, Craig Disley, Adi Yussuf and Gavin Gunning.
Notts County made the relatively short trip to Cleethorpes looking for a result to help them move out of the League Two relegation zone after new manager Kevin Nolan picked up a point in his first game in charge last week.
The Magpies sat in the bottom two at kick-off and had lost nine of their previous games but would look to the likes of former Premier League striker Jon Stead and fellow front men Adam Campbell and Jonathan Forte, to cause problems for the Town defence.
The hosts won the first corner of the game in the second minute when a cross from Andrew was deflected behind. From it, the ball was initially played short before a Clements cross was headed wide at the far post by Boyce.
At the other end, a cross by Curtis Thompson from the right was headed clear, before Forte won a corner for the away side. Vernon headed it clear and when the ball was returned into the penalty area, it was caught by Henderson.
A stoppage came when Forte went down holding his knee after appearing to slip but the former Scunthorpe United and Southampton attacker was passed fit to continue after receiving treatment.
A foul on Bogle near the halfway line gave the Mariners an opportunity to get the ball into the box but visiting keeper Adam Colin was first to Andrew’s delivery and punched it clear.
Two Notts County free kicks from opposite sides of the pitch caused no problems for Henderson.
As the half reached its midway point, neither side had really put their stamp on the game, with both goalkeepers largely untroubled.
But that was to change on 27 minutes, when the Mariners took the lead. Osborne, who had shown glimpses of his attacking ability, did well to pick up a loose ball, stop it from going out for a goal kick and pull it back for BOGLE, who slotted home unchallenged from 12 yards.
A home penalty claim came after Vernon and Osborne linked up well down the left. The striker’s cross was blocked but the appeals for handball were ignored by referee Darren Handley.
At the other end, Forte went close when he picked up a loose ball on the left and floated over a cross-cum-shot that bounced off the far post to safety.
A foul on Comley by midfielder Robert Milsom gave Town a free kick in a promising position, midway inside the Notts half, on 37 minutes. Bogle shot from it but Colin got down to make the stop.
Another chance for Grimsby came when the referee played a good advantage after Osborne was fouled by Michael O’Connor. Vernon took the ball on and found Bogle, who blasted a shot over the bar from inside the box. O’Connor was then booked.
A free kick at the other end from Milsom was eventually cleared, before a deep cross from Andrew failed to pick out Vernon and went away for a throw-in.
Three added minutes were signalled to be played at the end of the half and a half-chance came in the second of them when Andrew picked up a loose ball and fizzed a low cross into the box. Mills met it but could only fire off-target under pressure.
That proved to be the last opportunity of the half, with the Mariners holding their one-goal advantage at the interval.
Sam Osbourne replaced Milsom for the visitors before the restart and an early free kick from Andrew on the left was dealt with by the Notts defence, before an away free kick brought a similar outcome.
Good play by Comley saw him take the ball forward and pick out Andrew on the left soon afterwards. He crossed for Bogle but the striker could not take advantage.
A moment of danger for the Mariners came when Forte picked up a loose ball and played it into the box. Stead eventually shot but the effort was blocked for a corner.
Right-back Matt Tootle was yellow-carded for pulling Bogle back as the striker looked to break over the halfway line, before a shot from Comley took a deflection and looped up, with Colin reaching up to catch the ball.
Another chance came on 58 minutes, when a good ball from Pearson found Andrew and he cut in before hitting a shot that was deflected away for a corner, which was headed clear.
Clements was booked for a foul just inside his own half and the resulting free kick looked to have caused problems until the ball was eventually headed out for a corner by Mills. The pressure then continued from the flag, with left-back Carl Dickinson heading wide at the far post after Town failed to fully clear their lines.
Osborne had an opportunity on 68 minutes, taking the ball forward before shooting from 25 yards, but he could only watch it go wide of Colin’s goal.
The next chance fell to Bogle a minute later but after he was picked out by Clements, the striker’s shot was pushed out by Colin, with Andrew unable to profit from the rebound.
Montel Gibson then replaced Forte as the visitors made their second substitution, before Henderson went down following a collision but was passed fit to play on.
Town’s first change came on 74 minutes, with Disley sent on in place of Clements.
Another chance to make it 2-0 came two minutes later when Mills let fly from inside the box but he was denied by Colin, who dived to push the ball out for a corner at his near post.
Instead, the home fans had to wait another six minutes before they could finally celebrate the second goal which put the result beyond doubt. Bogle hit a low shot which was saved by Colin but VERNON was in the right place to turn the rebound into the net at the second attempt to register his first goal for the club.
Davies replaced Osborne for the last five minutes, before Gunning was sent on in place of Vernon, who came off to a well-deserved round of applause from the home sections of Blundell Park.
Stanley Aborah, who had come on in Notts’ third and final substitution, was brought down on the edge of the Town box to give the visitors a free kick in the last minute of the 90. But Henderson ensured his clean sheet remained intact with a superb save to claw Stead’s shot away from the top corner of his net.
At the other end, it was nearly 3-0 to the Mariners when Mills did well to advance into the box and pull the ball back for Davies, whose first-time shot cleared the bar.
Town then managed to close out the remainder of the five added minutes to secure what in the end proved to be a comfortable victory.
The Mariners are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Stevenage