Grimsby Town 4 Luton Town 1
GRIMSBY Town climbed into the play-off places with an impressive victory over Luton Town in front of the television cameras at Blundell Park.
The Mariners produced a superb team performance against one of the promotion favourites, playing an exciting brand of confident, attacking football in front of an above average crowd.
Town took an early lead through Joe Colbeck in an entertaining, end-to-end first half.
Luton came into the game as the half went on but could not seriously trouble James McKeown in the Town goal and they were punished when goals from Andy Cook and new signing Ross Hannah made the points safe before the break.
Grimsby added a fourth when centre-back Dean Beckwith headed into his own goal, before Scott Rendell pulled one back for the visitors.
Two changes were made to the Town side that recorded a goalless draw at Kidderminster Harriers last time out.
Loan signings Scott Nielson and Hannah both came straight into the starting line-up after penning three-month deals from Crawley and Bradford respectively, with Frankie Artus and Anthony Elding making way.
McKeown started in goal, with Bradley Wood, Shaun Pearson, Nathan Pond and Aswad Thomas forming the defence.
Colbeck began on the right side of midfield, with Craig Disley and Derek Niven in the centre of the park and Nielson completing the quartet.
Cook was the man chosen to partner Hannah up front, with Elding and Artus joined on the bench by Sam Hatton, Ian Miller and Dayle Southwell.
Luton named an attack-minded side, with plenty of firepower in the shape of strikers Andre Gray, Jon Shaw and Stuart Fleetwood, while Rendell and Alex Lawless would also look to get forward at every opportunity.
Town kicked off attacking the Pontoon Stand end and the hosts had the first opportunity to get the ball into the penalty area with a free kick on halfway, although Wood’s delivery went straight through to visiting keeper Mark Tyler.
The away side then had a spell of possession and territory inside the Town half, which ended with Rendell dragging a shot wide of the far post from 20 yards on six minutes.
Town took the lead two minutes later, when Thomas pulled the ball back for Niven to chip a cross towards the penalty spot and after a header from Cook was superbly blocked by Tyler, COLBECK was there to tuck the rebound in from eight yards.
The Mariners seemed to up the tempo after the goal and another attack came through a solo run from Nielson, before a good pass from Pearson soon afterwards and a driven cross by Colbeck led to Niven firing wide after Tyler had pushed the ball away.
Luton were looking to play a patient, passing game but were yet to trouble McKeown as the quarter-hour passed, with Town defending well.
Some more neat football from the visitors led to Lawless hitting a 25-yard shot just over the bar on 18 minutes.
At the other end, the pace and trickery of Nielson was noticeable in the early stages on the Town left, while fellow new boy Hannah was also looking lively in what had been an excellent first 20 minutes from the hosts.
Fleetwood was allowed to cut inside Colbeck and hit a low shot straight at McKeown from the edge of the box as Luton continued to attack, before Disley was shown the first yellow card of the night after showing his studs in a challenge near the halfway line.
A foul on Cook just inside the Luton half gave Town a free kick and another chance to put pressure on the Luton goal but Wood’s ball into the box was punched clear by Tyler.
McKeown had to make a stunning reflex save on 33 minutes when a cross came off the head of Pond and fell into the path of Rendell but the Grimsby keeper somehow managed to adjust and get a glove to the ball, tipping it around the post for a corner.
The away side were now beginning to ask more questions of the Town defence but the back four were standing up to the pressure and repelling the attacks.
Luton had looked the more likely to get the next goal but when it came, it was Town who doubled their lead.
A deep cross from the left was not dealt with and after Pond headed against the bar, the ball bounced around along the six-yard line before it was eventually nodded into the net by COOK for his first Grimsby goal.
And there was time for things to get even better for Town before the interval, when a ball was played forward for HANNAH to chase and he was first to it, beating centre-back Janos Kovacs for pace and slotting past the advancing Tyler for 3-0.
Two minutes of added time were played at the end of the half and Luton won two corners as they looked to claw a goal back before the break.
But they were both comfortably dealt with by the confident Mariners side, who took a commanding lead into the dressing rooms with them at half-time.
Connor Essam replaced Kovacs before the restart and the first chance of the second half went to Grimsby, with Nielson cutting in from the left before smashing a shot over the bar from 30 yards.
A Luton corner six minutes in led to another one when a shot from left-back Jake Howells was deflected behind. From the second delivery, McKeown had to make another good save, getting down to his right to block a close-range header.
The second Luton change came on 56 minutes and saw right-back Ronnie Henry replaced by Yaser Kasim, who slotted into midfield as the hatters reverted to three at the back.
A foul on Hannah gave Town a free kick 30 yards out but Colbeck’s low delivery was cleared by Rendell.
Town were soon on the attack again though as Nielson showed his pace to break clear through the middle before slipping the ball through to Colbeck.
His shot was blocked by Tyler and the ball just evaded Cook, who looked to pounce on the rebound.
A left-footed effort from Hannah was deflected over the bar for a corner just after the hour but as Colbeck crossed, the referee spotted a push and blew for a Luton free kick.
The third and final Luton substitution brought Jake Robinson onto the pitch in place of Fleetwood with a little more than 25 minutes to go.
Nielson was fouled on the left to give Grimsby another free kick in a dangerous position and this time, Colbeck’s delivery was headed out for a corner on the right. From it, Cooko’s towering header crashed off the bar, before Luton cleared their lines.
The game was still moving from end to end and soon afterwards, a corner at the other end eventually led to Lawless firing a long way over the bar.
Striker Shaw had a shot blocked by Thomas as Luton again looked to get themselves on the scoreboard.
But the next goal killed off the contest completely, as the Mariners extended their advantage further.
A free kick was played into the box by Wood from near the halfway line and with Pearson challenging for the ball, it came off the head of the unfortunate Beckwith and looped into the net for an OWN GOAL.
Town’s first substitution saw the impressive Nielson make way for Artus with 17 minutes left on the clock.
The visitors managed to pull a goal back two minutes later, when McKeown was unable to hold onto a low shot and RENDELL bundled the rebound in from close range to make it 4-1.
Town looked to make it five soon afterwards when a free kick from Artus was headed on by Cook but the ball was sliced out for a corner to ensure the gap remained at three goals.
Southwell replaced Hannah as Grimsby made a second substitution and the youngster had a chance when he ran onto a ball over the top from Artus but took a heavy touch before seeing his shot saved by Tyler.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the game and although Luton kept attacking in search of a second goal, they were left with just the one consolation effort, as the Mariners closed out an excellent victory.
Town are next in action on Tuesday night, when Gateshead are the visitors to Blundell Park.