GRIMSBY Town produced the perfect response to their weekend defeat as they registered a hard-earned victory over Alfreton Town at the Impact Arena.
The Mariners were solid in defence against their Derbyshire opponents throughout the game, laying the foundations for a return to winning ways.
Town were under pressure in the opening stages of the game but they played their way into the game and took the lead through Scott Neilson’s first goal for the club, six minutes before the break.
After the interval, Alfreton pressed forward in search of an equaliser but Grimsby held firm, with James McKeown making some superb saves to keep the hosts out.
And the Mariners went on to clinch the points when Ross Hannah made it 2-0 on 88 minutes.
One change was made to the Town side that lost at home to Dartford on Saturday, with Anthony Elding recalled to the starting XI in place of Andy Cook in attack.
McKeown began in goal, with Bradley Wood, Shaun Pearson, Nathan Pond and Aswad Thomas forming the defence.
Joe Colbeck, Craig Disley, Derek Niven and Neilson were the midfielders, while Elding was partnered up front by Hannah.
Cook dropped to the substitutes’ bench, where he was joined by Sam Hatton, Ian Miller, Frankie Artus and Dayle Southwell.
Alfreton named former Mariners defender Darran Kempson among their starting line-up, while a three-pronged strike force of Nathan Arnold, Anthony Wilson and Ben Tomlinson would be looking to cause problems for the Grimsby defence.
Nicky Law’s Reds came into the game off the back of an impressive away win at Macclesfield, which extended their unbeaten run to six games.
The Mariners, on the other hand, were looking to start a new unbeaten sequence after having their own 10-game run punctured by the Darts.
Alfreton almost had the first chance of the game when Wilson was first to a ball in the air on the edge of the Town box but referee Ross Joyce ruled he had fouled McKeown and blew for a free kick.
Another early opportunity nearly came when Pond was slow to react to a bouncing ball on the edge of the area and Arnold got in behind him but McKeown was alert to the danger, racing off his line to smother the ball.
Thomas was penalised for a foul on Arnold on the hosts’ right on 11 minutes but the resulting free kick from Josh law was headed clear.
Midfielder Dan Meadows then set Arnold up for the game’s first shot on target three minutes later but his low, 20-yard effort was comfortably saved by McKeown.
Alfreton had made the brighter start to the game, with Grimsby yet to pose any attacking threat as the quarter-hour passed.
The visitors were given a chance to change that on 18 minutes, when Hannah was fouled near the edge of the Alfreton box, although Thomas hit the home wall from the free kick.
Another Town attack saw Wood cross from the right and Neilson picked the ball up from it, worked some space inside the area but saw his shot blocked, before the offside flag went up from the rebound.
After seeing little of the ball in the opening 20 minutes, the Mariners were beginning to come into the game more as the half passed its midway point, albeit without calling home keeper Jon Stewart into action.
Town won a corner when Law did well to deny Neilson after Elding flicked a header on. Pearson headed wide from the flag.
Ross Killock was shown the first yellow card of the evening just before the half-hour for a foul but the free kick was cleared.
Another free kick came when a run through the middle by Neilson was halted 35 yards out but again, the Mariners could not make the most of the set-piece opportunity.
A corner for the home side came after a cross from Tomlinson on the right was headed clear but it was well dealt with by the Town defence, with Colbeck completing the clearance.
Stewart had been very quiet in the Alfreton goal but he had to slice the ball out for a corner after a particularly heavy back-pass.
The home side then broke clear after Theo Streete got a foot to the corner and Arnold raced away over the halfway line, getting to the 18-yard line before squaring to Bradley. McKeown sensed the danger again though, coming off his line to block the midfielder’s shot.
Alfreton were having another good spell but Town won themselves another corner on 39 minutes.
From it, the Mariners opened the scoring with their first real attempt on target of the game. Colbeck’s delivery was initially met by Elding and his header was well off-target but Town kept possession, building back up down the left.
Niven sent a ball over that was touched back by Colbeck for NEILSON to hammer it into the top corner from 16 yards.
Alfreton responded well, attacking in search of an almost instant leveller and winning two corners in quick succession, with Wilson heading over the bar from the second.
Elding was booked for a foul on centre-back Killock with three minutes to go before half-time.
Two added minutes were signalled at the end of the half and Alfreton continued to look for an equaliser, with Arnold driving a right-wing cross straight at McKeown.
That proved to be the last incident of note before the referee’s whistle brought an end to what had turned into an entertaining half.
Town had been under pressure for the first 20 minutes but came back into the contest and took a vital lead into the dressing room with them at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and the home side had the first opportunity of the second half when a foul by Thomas gave them a free kick on the right, although the delivery was poor and Colbeck brought the ball clear.
At the other end, a Neilson cross from the left was caught by keeper Stewart as both sides looked to attack in what was a fast-paced opening to the half.
A foul on Neilson, who had been Town’s star man so far, brought a free kick on the left on 53 minutes, although the ball into the box was headed clear. The Mariners worked it back though and Colbeck eventually shot at Stewart.
Grimsby were starting to get on top as the hour-mark approached, controlling possession and picking up all of the loose balls in midfield.
Thomas fired a volley wide from 25 yards, before Alfreton made the first substitution of the game, sending striker Paul Clayton on for Tomlinson.
Kempson was booked for a late challenge on Hannah near the halfway line soon afterwards but Wood’s free kick sailed into the arms of Stewart.
Hannah turned and shot just over the bar on 62 minutes as the visitors continued to dominate.
Another free kick, this time for a foul on Thomas, gave Grimsby another chance to pressurise the Alfreton goal but Colbeck’s looping delivery could only be headed behind by Pond.
The home side had their best chance of the game soon afterwards, when a low, drilled cross from Arnold on the right narrowly eluded the outstretched boot of Clayton at the near post.
Pond was booked for a foul on Clayton in a central position, 30 yards from goal, on 67 minutes. Law shot from the free kick but McKeown got across his line to claim the catch.
That proved to be the start of a spell of home pressure, which almost led to an equaliser through Clayton, who had a shot blocked by Pearson after the ball had bounced around in the Town box.
A Town break could have seen them double their lead when Elding beat the offside trap to get on the end of Hannah’s cross-field pass but the striker could not beat Stewart, firing wide from a narrow angle.
Neilson then had a low, long-range shot saved as Town kept pressing for the second goal that would probably make the points safe.
Another Grimsby corner came after an Elding cross from the left was headed behind but the visitors could not turn it into a chance in front of goal.
Keeper Stewart looked to have got away with handling outside his area after a long ball forward was chased down by Elding, before Meadows fired wide from 25 yards at the other end.
Hannah saw a shot deflected over the bar for a corner soon afterwards after good link-up play between Neilson and Thomas on the left.
McKeown had to be at his best to keep the Grimsby lead intact when the ball fell for Clayton inside the box on 81 minutes, diving to tip it away for a corner after the substitute had looked to place it into the bottom corner.
Meadows was replaced by Simon Russell for the hosts with six minutes to go, shortly before Wood was yellow-carded for upending Clayton on the home left. Law’s free kick was headed away by Pond.
Alfreton were pushing forward in a desperate attempt to rescue a point from the game as the clock ticked down.
Cook replaced Elding up front for Town for the final three minutes of the contest and soon afterwards, the away side sealed their victory with a crucial second goal.
Disley turned on the edge of the box and played the ball through for HANNAH, who smashed it into the bottom corner in front of the 572 travelling Mariners fans.
Alfreton almost had the last word in the first of four added minutes but again, Clayton was denied by McKeown from close range.
Neilson then curled a shot over the bar from 20 yards at the other end as Town looked to add extra gloss to the scoreline.
And Pearson headed a late free kick clear to ensure the Mariners could head home with a clean sheet to go with their three points.
They now head to AFC Telford United for their next game on Saturday.