GRIMSBY Town kept up the pressure on the Skrill Premier’s top two as they won away at Lincoln City for the third Boxing Day in a row.
First half goals from Ross Hannah and Craig Disley meant the Mariners claimed all three points against their Lincolnshire rivals at Sincil Bank.
Both goals came from set plays, with Scott Kerr claiming both assists, and after taking the lead, Town never looked in any serious danger despite coming under pressure from their hosts.
The home side’s main threat had come from long throws but Town defended well throughout and Lincoln finished the game with 10 men as Jake Sheridan saw red for a foul on Disley.
The victory means Grimsby are now unbeaten in 14 games and it took them closer to league leaders Cambridge and second-placed Luton ahead of their games later in the afternoon.
One change was made to the Town side after the victory over Kidderminster Harriers, with Chris Doig coming in for Clayton McDonald at centre-back.
Otherwise, it was the same team, with James McKeown in goal behind a defence of Sam Hatton, Shaun Pearson, Doig and Aswad Thomas.
Alex Rodman, Disley, Kerr and Scott Neilson were the midfielders, with Hannah and Lenell John-Lewis named as the strikers.
The Grimsby subs were Joe Colbeck, Andy Cook, Paul Bignot, Dayle Southwell and Patrick McLaughlin.
Lincoln would be looking for midfielder Alan Power to influence the game, with striker Danny Rowe out to grab the goals to upset the formbook and secure the points for the hosts.
Town kicked off towards their travelling supporters massed in the sold-out away end and after an early foul by Rowe, a free kick was pumped into the Lincoln box by McKeown but the offside flag went up.
A foul by Kerr at the other end gave the home side their first chance to attack but Power’s ball was punched away by the Town keeper. Lincoln kept possession though and the move finished with Rowe drilling a shot at McKeown from 20 yards.
John-Lewis was fouled on the edge of the Imps penalty area on six minutes but Rodman’s free kick was poor and bounced off the defensive wall.
Lincoln won the first corner of the game soon afterwards after Conner Robinson burst into the box from the left but from it, Bohan Dixon headed wide.
Rodman then won a corner at the other end for Town and this time, it produced the opening goal, as Kerr’s driven delivery picked out the unmarked HANNAH, who headed home from near the penalty spot.
Lincoln almost had an instant response when a long ball was flicked on by Dixon for Ben Tomlinson to prod just wide of the far post.
A home corner soon afterwards beat everybody and went out for a goal kick, before a foul by Power sent Thomas crashing to the ground as he looked to advance towards the Lincoln box but Kerr shot wide from the free kick.
Hatton then saw yellow for a trip and this time, the free kick from the left was inches away from providing an equaliser, as Nat Brown headed against the bar.
The long throw of Tom Miller was proving to be one of the home side’s main threats and after one was cleared back to him on 21 minutes, a cross from the right saw Brown head at McKeown.
Dixon was the next to be shown a yellow card for a bad foul on Pearson in front of the home dugout but the Mariners were unable to cause any problems from the resulting free kick.
Town could have doubled their lead on 27 minutes when John-Lewis dispossessed Power on the edge of the Lincoln box and he found Hannah, who teed up Kerr but the former City midfielder fired over the bar.
Miller had another opportunity to launch a long throw five minutes later but Thomas headed it away before Kerr brought the ball clear for Town.
Tomlinson went close for Lincoln after cutting in from the right but his powerful drive whistled past McKeown’s far post to keep Grimsby’s advantage intact with 11 minutes to go before half-time.
A foul on John-Lewis gave Town a free kick midway inside the Lincoln half on 38 minutes and from it, the Mariners made it 2-0. Kerr’s delivery was met by DISLEY, who sent a diving header past home keeper Paul Farman and into the bottom corner of the net, before being booked for celebrating with the away fans.
The hosts looked to hit back after the goal, which had come against the run of play, but Rowe’s low effort was pushed away from danger by McKeown.
At the other end, Kerr found himself in plenty of space to advance and shoot from 20 yards but Farman touched the effort away for a corner on the left, which caused no problems for the home defence.
It could have been 3-0 to the visitors as the half moved into added time, as a shot from Rodman was pushed away by Farman but John-Lewis could not convert the rebound from a tight angle, instead hitting the woodwork.
Nevertheless, the Mariners were in an excellent position at the interval, taking a commanding two-goal advantage into the dressing room with them.
McLaughlin replaced Kerr before the restart and the first action of the second half saw Lincoln win a free kick on the edge of the Town box after the Mariners failed to clear a long throw. Miller was replaced by Dan Gray before the kick, which was hammered straight into the wall.
A Town free kick was then held up by John-Lewis for McLaughlin, who drifted a shot just beyond the far post.
Luke Foster gave away a cheap corner on the Town left five minutes in but the hosts were not punished and they went up-field and won a corner of their own. That quickly led to another, which was punched away by McKeown.
Substitute Gray was also using a long throw to cause problems for the Grimsby defence and one of his missiles into the box fell for Todd Jordan but he could only hook his shot over the bar.
Neilson was booked for persistent infringement just before the hour, as Lincoln continued to look for a way back into the game.
That came after Pearson had gone down injured and he was eventually replaced by Bignot.
A push on Thomas gave Town a free kick midway inside the home half but McLaughlin’s ball was headed clear.
Hannah then forced a good save out of Farman with a shot from 25 yards that had to be tipped over the bar for a corner.
Bignot was the latest player to be booked for a foul close to his own penalty area on the Lincoln left. The free kick was driven in but got a deflection on its way out for a corner on the opposite flank, which was cleared.
Cook replaced Neilson with a little under 20 minutes to go, before Jordan hit a shot for the hosts which McKeown had to dive to push away.
The home pressure was building and the Town keeper was called into action again soon afterwards to push a header away for a corner. That led to another as Hatton and Thomas dealt with the immediate danger, before McKeown punched the second flag-kick clear.
Rodman was booked for a foul on Gray on the home right but Power’s free kick was dealt with by the Mariners, who now stood 11 minutes from victory.
A Town corner came four minutes later but McLaughlin’s delivery beat everybody and Lincoln brought the ball clear.
An incident-packed game still had at least one more to come, as Lincoln’s Sheridan was shown a straight red card for a bad challenge on Disley.
Five added minutes were played at the end of the game, before the Mariners and their 1,700-plus travelling supporters were left to celebrate victory and a job well done.
Town will now look ahead to a home game against Macclesfield Town on Saturday, before Lincoln visit Blundell Park on New Year’s Day.