.GRIMSBY Town moved into the semi-finals of the FA Trophy with a win over Luton Town at a blustery Blundell Park
After a first half of few clear-cut chances, an early goal from a Jamie Devitt free kick proved the difference between the two sides.
Although they created little to worry Town keeper James McKeown, Luton would remain a threat while only one goal behind but the home nerves were calmed when Andy Cook doubled the Grimsby advantage with 15 minutes to go.
And the victory was assured when Marcus Marshall made it 3-0 soon afterwards, as the Mariners set up a two-legged meeting with Dartford or FC Halifax in the competition’s last four.
Town made two changes to the side that earned a goalless draw with Cambridge United on Saturday.
Bradley Wood came in at right-back in place of Sam Hatton, while Andi Thanoj was given a start in the centre of midfield, with Derek Niven dropping to the bench.
McKeown started in goal, with Wood, Shaun Pearson, Ian Miller and Aswad Thomas forming the defence.
Marshall and Jamie Devitt were the wingers, with Craig Disley partnering Thanoj in the centre of the park.
Cook was passed fit to keep his place in attack after suffering a cut head in the game at the Abbey Stadium and sported a large bandage as he took his place alongside Ross Hannah.
The Grimsby substitutes were Niven, Joe Colbeck, Richard Brodie, Simon Ford and Dayle Southwell.
Luton boss Paul Buckle made four changes to the team that produced an FA Cup giant killing by knocking out Premier League Norwich City, although goalscorer Scott Rendell was restored to the starting line-up after his super-sub appearance at Carrow Road.
The first real attack by the Mariners saw Disley meet a long pass from Wood and have an attempted shot blocked for a corner on five minutes.
A push by Janos Kovacs on Cook gave Town a free kick in a dangerous position on the left two minutes later.
From it, the hosts took the lead, as DEVITT’S whipped delivery was aided by the strong wind as it beat visiting keeper Dean Brill at his far post.
At the other end, a foul by Pearson resulted in a Luton free kick in a similar position but Alex Lawless’ low shot took a deflection and McKeown was able to push it away from danger.
Both teams looked to be struggling to contend with the swirling wind in the early stages of the game, although the Mariners seemed to be adapting better to the conditions.
Devitt launched another Town attack when he skipped past Kovacs on the left before cutting into the penalty area but he looked for Hannah instead of taking the shot on and the ball was just behind the striker, allowing Luton to clear.
Kovacs came off second best in a battle with Cook on the left to concede a corner on 18 minutes but Devitt’s low delivery was poor and the ball was cleared.
Good play by Thomas and Marshall led to the left-back forcing Brill to beat a shot away as the Town pressure continued, with the hosts doing most of the attacking so far.
A foul by Thanoj on Stuart Fleetwood presented an opportunity to get the ball into the box but Jake Howells curled his free kick wide of McKeown’s far post.
Howells won a corner off Wood on 24 minutes and after the kick was half-cleared, a shot from 20 yards was blocked by Wood and the ball looped up for McKeown to catch.
A slip by Howells gave Hannah the ball 30 yards from goal three minutes later. The forward found Marshall on the right and the move ended with Thanoj driving an effort from 25 yards that was straight at Brill.
Fleetwood went down inside the Town box on the half-hour but the referee waved the Luton striker’s penalty claims away.
Howells had to concede a corner after Devitt chased a Cook header but the visitors’ defence held firm from the set piece.
Rendell went down on the edge of the Grimsby penalty area soon afterwards but again, no free kick was given and Town broke seconds later through Hannah on the right, although his cross did not find a man in black and white.
Luton were beginning to come into the game, moving the ball around nicely but without creating any real goalscoring chances.
A low ball across the six-yard line from Rendell almost provided that chance for the Hatters but Wood was there to cut out the danger.
Lawless then had a shot blocked as the away side continued to look for an equaliser, with six minutes to go before the break.
Town were still looking to add to their lead before the interval and Marshall did well to keep the ball in and send a cross over from the right but defender Lathaniel Rowe-Turner got his head to it ahead of Cook.
A free kick given for a foul by Kovacs on Cook gave Devitt another chance to send a free kick into the Luton box but his ball proved too far ahead of Pearson at the far post.
Two minutes of added time were signalled as heavy rain added to the swirling wind around the ground.
And with no further chances for either side in that time, the Mariners held their narrow advantage going into the dressing rooms at half-time.
No changes were made before the restart and Luton had the first chance of the second half when a Rendell cross from the right had to be put out for a corner by Pearson at the near post.
Fleetwood had a shot blocked from 20 yards as the visitors continued to make the early running, before Pearson came out on top in a duel with the striker after he burst into the box soon afterwards.
A heavy back-pass gifted Town a corner on 50 minutes and it led to another one on the opposite side after Devitt had a shot deflected wide. Thanoj’s second delivery was headed away by Jonathan Smith.
Cook flashed a shot well wide from 25 yards after he was found by Devitt fro the left.
Soon afterwards, Fleetwood was penalised for a push on Miller as he looked to chase down a ball on the edge of the Grimsby penalty area.
Miller had to be alert after Wood lost out to Fleetwood inside his own half but the centre-back covered well to clear for a throw.
Miller was then penalised for a foul on Smith on the edge of the Town box. Fleetwood’s free kick deflected off the home wall, before the ball broke for Arnaud Mendy to hammer over the bar from 10 yards.
Town were beginning to come under pressure, with mistakes pounced upon by the Luton attack. Another came when Devitt lost possession in midfield but Miller came to the rescue once again.
Kovacs was yellow-carded on the hour, possibly for something he said to the official, before the Mariners passed up a chance to double their advantage.
A shot by Disley was blocked and the ball eventually broke for Devitt inside the box but he could only steer a shot over the bar.
Marshall did well to get around Kovacs on the right soon afterwards but his low cross was cleared before it could reach Hannah.
At the other end, a cross from Fleetwood on the left proved too high for Lawless, as the ball sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Colbeck was sent on in place of Devitt as Town made the first substitution on 63 minutes.
Hannah then fired well wide from the left side of the box, with the ball eventually going out for a throw-in on the far side.
Smith had a shot blocked by Pearson from Luton’s next attack, before Fleetwood curled a shot wide after cutting in from the left.
Cook was the next to go close for the Mariners, smashing a volley against the bar from inside the box.
Town were beginning to get on top and Luton’s response was to make a double substitution, with Jon Shaw and Simon Ainge coming on for Rendell and Mendy.
Brodie then came on in place of Hannah for Grimsby with a little less than 20 minutes still to play.
The striker’s first involvement was to burst through the middle on a run that saw him brought down on the edge of the Luton penalty area. COOK took the free kick and smashed a low shot through the visitors’ wall to make it 2-0 in front of the Pontoon Stand.
And if that was not enough to put the result beyond doubt, the Mariners made sure on 77 minutes, when a cross from Colbeck on the right broke for MARSHALL to side-foot past Brill from 18 yards and register the home side’s third goal of the night.
Niven replaced Thanoj in the Mariners’ midfield for the last five minutes of the game, just before Brodie almost made it 4-0 when he forced Brill to push an 18-yard shot away from goal.
Four added minutes were signalled at the end of the regulation 90 and Luton had a chance to pull one goal back when Niven fouled Shaw but Fleetwood’s 30-yard free kick was easy for McKeown to catch.
That proved to be the last chance of the game, meaning the Mariners kept a clean sheet to add to their three goals in what had been a hard-earned victory.
Grimsby return to league action on Saturday, when Alfreton Town are the visitors to Blundell Park.
Grimsby Town: McKeown, Thomas, Pearson-S, Miller, Disley, Cook, Devitt, Wood, Thanoj, Hannah, Marshall.