Grimsby Town 3 Woking 1
GRIMSBY Town bounced back from their weekend defeat by beating Woking in a clash between two of the division’s high-fliers at Blundell Park.
The Mariners strengthened their second-place position in the league table with a good team performance against the side that started the evening in third.
Captain Craig Disley marked being restored to the starting line-up by scoring the opening goal as he rose to loop a header into the net.
Town went on to dominate the remainder of the first half before doubling their lead nine minutes after the restart through Lenell John-Lewis.
Substitute Dean Morgan pulled one back for the visitors, who went on to give the home fans a scare by mounting several attacks and threatening to snatch a point.
But any nerves around the ground were calmed when John-Lewis scored his second of the game late on to seal the three points.
Three changes were made to the Town side after Saturday’s home loss to Kidderminster, while there was also an alteration to the formation.
Jack Mackreth replaced Scott Neilson, Disley returned in place of Harry Pell and Jon-Paul Pittman was the other to come in, with Aswad Thomas out through illness.
Thomas’ absence meant Carl Magnay moved to left-back, with Daniel Parslow slotting in on the right and Shaun Pearson and Toto Nsiala keeping up their central defensive partnership, in front of goalkeeper James McKeown.
Mackreth, Disley, Scott Brown and Nathan Arnold made up a four-man midfield, while Pittman linked up with John-Lewis in attack in a 4-4-2 system.
Neilson was on the bench, along with Ross Hannah, Paul Bignot, Craig Clay and Hamish Watson.
Woking’s main threat was likely to come from 13-goal top scorer Scott Rendell, while Giuseppe Sole would look to add to his eight league goals so far this term if called upon from the Cards’ bench.
The visitors arrived in third position in the Conference table, a point and a place behind the Mariners but having played two games fewer.
After a quiet opening, a foul by Nsiala gave Woking a free kick on the halfway line but from it, Pearson got to the ball ahead of striker Jack Marriott and cleared it for a throw-in.
The away side were forced into an early substitution when keeper Jake Cole went down injured after collecting a low cross from John-Lewis. Fortunately, boss Garry Hill had back-up stopper Aaron Howe on his bench.
John-Lewis dragged a volley harmlessly wide from 35 yards on 10 minutes, in what was the first attempt of any kind in the game.
A Pittman cross was then cleared as the hosts began to take the initiative, before a teasing cross from Arnold was also dealt with.
The next time the ball was swung into the box from the left side though, the Mariners took the lead when Magnay’s delivery was met by DISLEY and he looped a header over Howe and into the top corner of the net.
A shot by John-Lewis from 18 yards was deflected behind for a corner two minutes later but Rendell headed clear after Arnold’s initial delivery had been returned to him.
Woking looked to hit back and Pearson had to clear off the line when a header from midfielder Josh Payne looked to be on its way into the net.
A shot from Marriott on the edge of the box was blocked, before another effort took a deflection for a Woking corner that was dealt with by John-Lewis.
Mackreth was caught offside at the other end on 25 minutes after what initially looked to be a promising run by John-Lewis through the middle.
Marriott had a double chance for the away side three minutes later, shooting over the bar on the half-volley after seeing a first effort rebound back to him.
More bad luck for Woking came when Rendell went down injured just after the half-hour and had to be replaced by Morgan.
Mackreth tried a speculative shot from 35 yards after good work by Magnay and Disley on the left but the winger was off-target.
Town were continuing to dominate, with McKeown yet to be forced into any serious action as the interval began to loom.
A shot-on-the-turn by John-Lewis bobbled through to keeper Howe, before an attempt by Arnold was diverted wide by midfielder Joey Jones. Arnold’s ball from the flag fell for Disley but his header was saved.
Another corner – this time on the right – came when a cross by Mackreth was put behind. This time, Arnold’s kick was headed away by Adam Newton, before a first-time, 25-yard thunderbolt from Magnay was well held by Howe.
At the other end, a Woking free kick from wide on the left was cleared by Pearson and Arnold was unlucky not to get on the end of a long ball forward shortly afterwards.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the half, with the Mariners looking to consolidate their superiority with a second goal.
But it was the visitors who had the last attack of the half, when a foul by Pittman on the Woking right gave them a free kick, which was quickly converted into a corner. That led to another one, which was headed clear by Nsiala.
That proved to be the last action of the opening period, with Town holding their advantage at the halfway point.
No further changes were made before the restart and the Mariners had the first chance when Mackreth found Pittman with a cross, although the striker’s header lacked the power to beat Howe.
At the other end, Parslow had to get his head to a cross from the right before it could reach winger Kevin Betsy.
Narriott then sent a cross-shot wide of the far post after being played in by Betsy, with McKeown still yet to have a save to make in the Town goal.
Morgan almost had a chance after a mix-up in the Grimsby defence following a cross from Marriott on the right but the hosts recovered to get the ball away.
Town doubled their lead nine minutes in, when Pittman put pressure on Howe before keeping the ball in near the right corner flag and crossing. With the keeper rushing back towards his goal, it left an empty net and JOHN-LEWIS capitalised, diving to head the ball home.
The hosts were now in complete control, although a Woking goal would put a different complexion on the game.
A foul on Disley earned defender James Clarke the first booking of the evening just after the hour, before John-Lewis headed narrowly over the bar from an Arnold corner on the left.
Woking had not looked a threat but they pulled a goal back on 67 minutes, when MORGAN picked the ball up 20 yards out and picked his spot, curling a shot past McKeown and into the net off the far post.
Three minutes later, the away side were inches away from levelling the scores when Jones crashed a shot against the post from 25 yards as their revival continued.
From being in a position of control, the Mariners were now being forced to soak up some pressure, with Marriott sending a low cross through to McKeown from the left at the end of another away attack.
Marriott then flashed a shot wide from the edge of the area after Morgan had laid the ball off following good work by Betsy.
Sensing an unlikely point may now be in the offing for his side, Woking boss Garry Hill sent Sole on in place of Marriott with 15 minutes to go.
A low ball into the box from Arnold was cleared for a corner after Disley almost got on the end of it but the flag-kick did not cause any problems.
A double substitution saw Hannah and Clay replace Pittman and Brown with 12 minutes left.
Both substitutes were quickly into the action, with Clay shooting wide after Hannah’s cross fell for him at the edge of the box.
Hannah then had the ball in the net two minutes later but the offside flag had already gone up against him so the goal did not count.
Newton was yellow-carded for a foul halfway inside the Woking half but Magnay’s free kick hit the defensive wall.
Hannah was caught offside again as he looked to shoot with five minutes left, although Woking were the side doing most of the attacking as the Mariners looked to be hanging on.
Any home nerves were put to rest with two minutes left though, when Hannah was allowed to control the ball near the by-line and square it for JOHN-LEWIS, who accepted the gift and slammed it into the net from eight yards.
Watson replaced John-Lewis as the game moved into three minutes of stoppage time and with no further chances before the end of the game, the Mariners were left to celebrate a big three points against a rival at the top end of the table.
They are next in action when they travel to AFC Telford United on Saturday.