Grimsby Town 1 FC Halifax Town 0GRIMSBY Town closed the gap to Conference leaders Barnet as they beat promotion rivals FC Halifax Town at Blundell Park.
Halifax created little throughout the game and were possibly feeling the effects of an energy-sapping FA Cup tie against Bradford City just two days previously.
And Grimsby, who produced a determined team performance, were able to see the game out to seal an important victory which kept them in second place in the table.
Three changes were made to the Town side after Saturday’s FA Cup defeat by Oxford, with Carl Magnay, Scott Neilson and Harry Pell replacing Craig Clay, Jack Macketh and Jon-Paul Pittman.
James McKeown started in goal, with Magnay, Toto Nsiala, Pearson and Aswad Thomas forming the defence.
Daniel Parslow took up a holding midfield role behind a central quartet of Neilson, Craig Disley, Pell and Nathan Arnold, leaving Lenell John-Lewis as the lone striker.
The Grimsby substitutes were Scott Brown, Mackreth, Clay, Pittman and Ross Hannah.
Halifax stood a point and two places behind the Mariners in the league table at kick-off and included new loan signing Sean McGinty, who has joined the club from Rochdale.
Top scorer Scott Boden would be out to add to his tally as he lined up alongside Richard Peniket in the Shaymen’s attack.
Town won the first corner in the opening minute but Arnold’s deliver was cleared by McGinty after it had been headed across goal by John-Lewis.
Parslow bobbled a shot past visiting keeper Matt Glennon’s target on three minutes, before the first free kick came when centre-back Marc Roberts fouled John-Lewis inside the Halifax half.
A foul on Disley provided another chance for the hosts to get the ball into the danger zone and after Neilson’s delivery was retrieved by Arnold, John-Lewis was blocked for a corner.
John-Lewis was booked on nine minutes for retaliating after he was fouled by Simon Ainge.
The game was yet to really get going at the 15-minute mark, with both sides playing long balls and neither goalkeeper forced into serious action.
And the scrappy nature continued, with Magnay chipping a cross that was too high for Disley and Peniket winning a corner off Pearson at the other end, which was headed clear by Thomas.
Pell had the first shot of the game for the Mariners, running through the middle and hitting an effort from inside the box which bounced off Glennon.
Peniket talked his way into a booking soon afterwards, before the best move of the game so far saw John-Lewis hook a volley over the bar after a cross from Magnay was helped on by Neilson.
Arnold sent a good ball into the danger zone but John-Lewis could only put his header over the bar from eight yards. Town were starting to see more possession by the midway point in the half and they had another free kick in a good position when Pell was fouled on the right.
Peniket won a corner off Parslow on the Halifax right on 26 minutes and after the ball was returned to the taker, Boden was penalised for a handball.
Grimsby went straight down the other end and created a chance when Neilson found John-Lewis inside the penalty area, although Glennon got down to stop the striker’s shot.
The keeper was equal to it though, reaching out to tip the effort away for a corner. Glennon had to be at his best soon afterwards when the ball was played to Neilson and he curled a brilliant shot from the edge of the box.
That gave Arnold another chance to send the ball in from the flag but it was headed away at the near post. Another corner came after Neilson and Pell had looked to work an opening on 35 minutes and this time, Parslow had a shot deflected behind after Halifax failed to clear.
Halifax had created very little to worry McKeown or his defence, with the Mariners having the best of the chances so far.
And this time, they made it count as Arnold’s right-wing delivery was perfect for PEARSON to meet with a towering header that crashed past Glennon and into the net. Grimsby had another corner when a cross was headed behind by Marc Roberts five minutes before the break.
From it, Town struggled to clear their lines but the visitors failed to capitalise as Disley blocked a shot. Halifax had been content to sit back and look for opportunities on the counter-attack but the goal forced them to show more urgency, with Peniket firing a shot that took a deflection and looped away for a corner.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the half, with Halifax looking to level the scores before the interval.
But they were unable to create any further opportunities before the referee’s half-time whistle blew, with Grimsby’s advantage intact.
Halifax boss Neil Aspin sent Matty Pearson on in place of the largely ineffective Ross Dyer before the restart and Town’s Pearson sent a header wide from a McKeown free kick near the halfway line three minutes in.
A slip by Magnay almost let Scott McManus in but his shot was blocked, while Boden and Peniket also saw efforts blocked as the visitors started the second half purposefully.
Midfielder Paul Marshall curled a shot around the wall but watched it go just wide of the target. Nsiala was penalised for a poor challenge that gave the away side a free kick slightly left of centre.
Arnold won a corner at the other end on 52 minutes but Arnold’s ball from the flag was headed away, as was a cross by Neilson seconds later.
Marshall stepped up and the result was the same, with the ball hitting the side-netting. Nsiala was booked for a foul on Lois Maynard on the edge of the Town box after another shot by Peniket was blocked.
The change saw Parslow move to right-back as Clay slotted into the midfield. Magnay, who had made a quick return from an injury sustained at Braintree last Tuesday, appeared to suffer a recurrence of it and had to be replaced by Clay on 55 minutes.
Ainge was the next to be shown a yellow card for obstructing Pell as he looked to run through the middle.
A cross-shot from Arnold soon afterwards was tipped onto the bar and out for a corner by Glennon, with John-Lewis having a looping header cleared off the line from the flag-kick.
A Town free kick on the hour saw Arnold find Pearson from the right but the centre-back headed over the bar.
At the other end, a McManus cross was headed on by Boden but Thomas was in the right place at the far post to head the ball behind for a corner.
That led to another corner on the opposite side but Marshall’s delivery was dealt with by Pearson.
Another corner, this time taken by Marshall, was comfortably claimed by McKeown, before a long throw from Marc Roberts was headed clear by Pearson as far as his Halifax namesake, who hit a wild volley well over the bar.
Pearson had to concede a corner after Disley was outpaced by Peniket but again, Pearson was there to clear the danger from the kick.
Adam Smith replaced McGinty in the Halifax side with 20 minutes to go and although they had forced a string of corners, the visitors were not really threatening a goal.
An Arnold free kick from the right was headed down by Pearson but lacked the power needed to beat Glennon.
The winger then won a corner with 15 minutes to go as Town looked to double their advantage, although the ball from the flag was headed clear for a throw-in.
Danny Schofield was sent on in place of Boden as Halifax made their final substitution, before a free kick from halfway went tamely through to McKeown.
Pell then went close for Grimsby with a fierce drive from 25 yards that whistled just past Glennon’s post.
John-Lewis lifted a shot onto the Pontoon Stand roof after good work by Arnold to pull the ball back from the right with 80 minutes on the clock.
Another corner came two minutes later and Arnold’s delivery was good but Pearson looked to be stretching back as he headed wide.
Halifax pushed forward as the clock ticked down, with four additional minutes signalled by the fourth official.
Peniket was penalised for a foul on McKeown as the pair challenged to be first to a cross from the right in the second of those extra minutes.
And another chance to get the ball into the danger area came with a free kick on halfway, although Parslow got his head to it before Pell completed the clearance.
One last chance came when Pearson conceded a corner on the left but a handball decision went in favour of the Mariners from it.
And that proved to be the last action of note, with the referee’s whistle confirming Town’s victory.
They are next in action when they travel to Altrincham on Saturday.