A LATE Josh Morrall strike earned a young Grimsby Town XI a deserved victory against Winterton Rangers at West Street.
The Mariners team, comprised entirely of youth team players, produced some excellent football against a Rangers side which also turned in a good performance.
Town edged the opening half-hour, before their Northern Counties East League hosts came into the game and began to create chances of their own.
The second half was largely even, with both teams looking to force a winning goal.
And the goal eventually came with five minutes to go, when Morrall ran into the penalty area before firing past goalkeeper Steve Wibberley.
Town lined up with Liam Higton in goal, behind a defence of Danny Grant, Ben Cuff, Hamish Falconer and Morrall.
Rob Bryant, Lewis Smith, Jack Griffin and Caine Winfarrah were the midfielders, with Will Peers partnering Sam O'Malley up front.
Winterton had the first real chance of the game with a free kick from 25 yards in a central position but it was blazed well over the bar.
Town won a free kick for a foul on O'Malley eight minutes in but Will Peers sent his shot over from close to the edge of the area.
Another half-chance came when Peers ran onto a through-ball but Winterton keeper Leigh Herrick raced off his line to get there first.
Peers sent another shot over the bar on 24 minutes as Town continued to create the better opportunities, although ex-Scunthorpe midfielder Wayne Graves flashed a shot wide of Higton's far post for Winterton just before the half-hour.
That proved to be the start of a good spell for the hosts, who bossed possession after the 30-minute mark and looked to put pressure on the Town goal, albeit without seriously troubling Higton.
Winterton won another corner four minutes before the break but Higton came off his line to confidently punch the ball clear of danger from the flag-kick.
The Mariners had a chance to exert some pressure of their own with a free kick for a foul on O'Malley but the shot was floated straight into the arms of keeper Herrick.
At the other end, a cross from the left bounced off the top of the Town crossbar before the ball was cleared.
That proved to be the last action of an entertaining half, in which both teams had played some good football and shown signs a breakthrough may be forthcoming.
Harry Ashton replaced Higton in goal for Grimsby for the second half and it was the visitors who had the first chance after the interval, when Winfarrah made a good run through the middle before passing to Peers, who fired over the bar.
One of the best moves of the match came on 57 minutes, when right-winger Bryant hit a superb cross field ball for Winfarrah to run onto from the left. He could not find the finish though, instead shooting wide from a narrow angle.
O'Malley had a drive from inside the area tipped away for a corner five minutes later but Town could not turn the set-piece into a chance in front of goal.
An opportunity then came at the other end, when the ball was cut back from the left but the shot flew well over the bar from 20 yards.
Town youth boss Robbie Stockdale made wholesale changes around the 65-minute mark, with Callum Robinson, Blaize Kerr, Ellis Humble and Tom Charlesworth all coming off the bench.
The final change was made with 15 minutes to go and introduced Chris Burgess to the action.
Griffin, who had been impressive in the centre of the Town midfield, was the next to try his luck with a shot but his long-range effort was straight at substitute goalkeeper Steve Wibberley, who gathered the ball comfortably.
An unlucky bounce led to Ashton slicing a kick out for a Winterton corner on 80 minutes but the hosts could not capitalise on the opportunity from the flag.
Both sides were still looking to win the game and Town had a good chance with eight minutes left to play but Morrall could not beat Wibberley from inside the area after working an opening.
And with five minutes left, the Mariners had their breakthrough, when MORRALL weaved his way into the box before steering a low shot into the net for a deserved goal.
Town held onto their lead to close the game out and claim a victory which would have encouraged their manager in the run-up to the new season.
The Mariners first team are next in action on Tuesday, when they travel to face Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park in the Lincolnshire Senior Cup.Young Mariners