.GRIMSBY Town moved to the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier with a comfortable victory over Braintree Town at Blundell Park
Two Ross Hannah goals and one from skipper Craig Disley lifted the Mariners to the summit of the table as previous leaders Newport County were beaten by Hyde.
Grimsby took the lead shortly before half-time, when Hannah headed home from a cross by Nathan Pond.
Town then came out after the break looking to put the result beyond doubt as soon as possible and they doubled their advantage through Disley on 52 minutes.
Hannah rounded off the scoring with his second of the game and with Braintree offering little attacking threat at the other end, Town were able to close the game out and record a clean sheet.
Scott Neilson came back into the Grimsby XI after serving a three-match ban for his sending off in the game against Macclesfield last month.
The Crawley loanee replaced Joe Colbeck in what was the only change to the starting line-up from last week’s home success against Woking.
That meant there was no place from the start for Derek Niven, who had to be content with a place on the bench as AndI Thanoj continued in the centre of midfield.
James McKeown started in goal, with Sam Hatton keeping his place at right-back after his two goals last time out. Shaun Pearson, Pond and Aswad Thomas completed the back four.
Marcus Marshall switched from the left side of midfield to cover for the injured Colbeck on the right, while Disley joined Thanoj in the middle and Neilson slotted in on the left.
Hannah and Andy Cook were the strikers, with Neilson joined among the substitutes by Ian Miller, Simon Ford, Greg Pearson and Dayle Southwell.
Braintree made the long trip north from Essex looking to make it three games unbeaten against the Mariners, who they took four points from in the two fixtures last season.
The Iron would be looking to bounce back from their midweek FA Cup exit to League One leaders Tranmere Rovers with a positive result on their return to league action.
Braintree kicked off and won the first corner of the game on two minutes, with Luke Daley’s cross from it headed behind by Cook for another corner.
Town’s first attack saw Cook and Hannah link up well on the edge of the box, before Marshall fired over the bar.
Then, a good touch by Neilson from Thanoj’s pass saw Hannah go through on goal but he could not beat visiting keeper Daniel Naisbitt, who raced off his line to block the Bradford City loanee.
Braintree were getting plenty of possession in the opening stages of the game and winger Dan Sparkes had a shot blocked on eight minutes after he mis-kicked at the first attempt following Ryan Peters’ cross from the right.
Town’s first corner came when left-back Sam Habergham beat Cook to a ball inside the penalty area but the home side failed to create any danger from the flag.
Thanoj had a shot blocked by defender Pat O’Connor as Grimsby looked to attack at pace.
A foul on striker Dan Holman gave the away side a free kick in a central position but the shot from midfielder Kenny Davis came off the Town wall and the ball went out for a throw-in.
A Hatton free kick from the right had to be pushed over the bar by Naisbitt for a Town corner on 20 minutes, which led to a ball from Thanoj going past the far post for a goal kick.
A foul by Nicky Symonds on Neilson gave the home side another chance to get the ball into the box but no attacker could get a touch to Hatton’s delivery and it again skipped past the post.
Daley hit a shot a long way over the bar for Braintree on 26 minutes, before a Marshall cross from the Town right was cleared after a forward run from Pearson.
A Thomas cross was cut out for a Town corner on the left and Pond headed it into the net after Pearson headed across goal but the former Boston defender fouled his man in the process and a free kick was given to the visitors.
Another chance came when Hannah latched onto a loose ball after Cook’s flick and poked the ball over the goalkeeper but he could not find the net, as it instead dropped wide of the near post.
Cook then met a deep cross from Hatton with a strong header from 15 yards on 39 minutes but he too could only watch the ball drop wide of the mark.
A cross from Neilson on the right had to be headed out for another corner, which eventually led to the home side taking the lead, with three minutes to go before half-time.
Neilson’s delivery was half-cleared but Town kept possession and build up another attack and when Pond chipped a cross from the right side of the box, HANNAH met it and powered his header past Naisbitt.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and Hatton looked to double the Grimsby advantage when he smashed a shot from 35 yards that was scrambled away for a corner after Naisbitt could only parry it.
The corner was dealt with by the visiting defence and it proved to be the last action of the half, with Hannah’s goal proving to be the difference between the two sides at the midway point.
Adam Bailey-Dennis was sent on before the restart for Braintree but Town took control from the off, looking for an early second goal that would all but secure the three points.
They could have had that goal when Marshall was played in on 47 minutes but his shot was saved by Naisbitt, who dived to push the ball away.
Five minutes later, the Mariners did double their lead. Thomas was brought down by Peters after a good cross-field pass from Disley and after the defender was booked, Neilson’s driven free kick was touched into the net by DISLEY.
Braintree’s response was a weak shot by Holman from 20 yards that gave McKeon a comfortable catch.
Another Holman shot was deflected over the bar for a corner after Neilson lost possession on the Town left and from the flag, the ball dropped to Dean Wells, who scooped his shot over the bar from eight yards when he should have done better.
The game stopped for Bailey-Dennis to receive treatment after he picked up a knock in an aerial challenge with Cook.
Another Grimsby chance came when Cook worked some space before playing a ball through for Neilson but he could not get enough contact on it to steer a shot past Naisbitt.
A foul on Disley gave Town a free kick on the right but nobody could get a touch to Hatton’s delivery and a throw-in on the far side was the result.
The Mariners extended their lead on 65 minutes, when Marshall ran at the visiting defence before playing it to HANNAH on the left, who rifled a low shot into the bottom corner of Naisbitt’s net from the edge of the box.
At the other end, Pond was forced to concede a corner on the Braintree right, which was headed away by Disley before the ball was worked back for substitute Kaine Sheppard to have a shot deflected wide.
Cook had a shot blocked on 72 minutes as Town looked to add to their score, then the former Barrow striker did well to beat his man on the right and send over a low cross that had to be cut out for a throw.
Some neat play down the Braintree left led to a low cross from Sheppard but McKeown came off his line to block it and gather the ball at the second attempt.
Declan Hunt replaced Peters as Braintree boss Alan Devonshire made his third and final substitution, before Town’s first change saw Southwell come on for Neilson.
Hatton won a corner on the right with nine minutes to go and from it, the Mariners nearly had their fourth goal as the ball bounced around the six yard box but no attacker could force it over the line and the visitors eventually cleared.
Greg Pearson replaced the hardworking Cook on 84 minutes and the visitors could have had a penalty soon afterwards when Massey went down under a challenge from Hatton but referee Anthony Backhouse waved play on.
Niven came on in place of Disley for the last two minutes, before Pond was yellow-carded for kicking the ball away after a free kick was awarded to the away side.
Three added minutes were signalled by the fourth official and with no further chances for either side, the hosts closed out their win.
Town are next in action on Saturday, when Buxton are the visitors to Blundell Park in the first round of the FA Trophy.