GRIMSBY Town earned another vital away win as they saw off Alfreton Town at the Impact Arena.
A debut goal by Josh Gowling and a late second from Lenell John-Lewis gave the Mariners maximum points and sent their 2,500-strong travelling support home happy.
On a warm, sunny day in Derbyshire, the visitors were always in control against an Alfreton side who offered little throughout the contest.
But it took until nine minutes after the hour to turn their dominance into an advantage on the scoreboard when Gowling turned a Jack Mackreth shot into the net.
Alfreton thought they had equalised through Karl Hawley but the referee ruled the ball had not crossed the line and it was then left to John-Lewis to wrap up the win and keep Grimsby’s automatic promotion aspirations alive.
Town boss Paul Hurst gambled with his team selection by making five changes after Saturday’s draw with Gateshead.
In came Gowling for his first taste of action since signing on loan from Kidderminster, along with Daniel Parslow, Craig Clay, Christian Jolley and Jon-Paul Pittman.
The men making way were Carl Magnay, Toto Nsiala, Scott Brown, Nathan Arnold and Ollie Palmer, with the latter three starting on the bench.
James McKeown began in goal, with Parslow, Shaun Pearson, Gowling and Gregor Robertson forming the defence.
Mackreth continued on the right of midfield, with Clay lining up alongside captain Craig Disley in the middle and Jolley starting on the left as Pittman lined up alongside John-Lewis in attack.
Brown, Arnold and Palmer were joined on the bench by Ross Hannah and Jordan Chapell.
Alfreton included former Town defender Bradley Wood among their starting XI, while ex-Mariners midfielder Andi Thanoj had to be content with a place on the bench.
Nicky Law’s men knew a win would all but guarantee their Conference Premier place for next season, while Town were looking for a victory to keep their automatic promotion aims on track.
Town began on the attack and Mackreth won the first corner on two minutes before his near-post delivery was headed behind for a second flag-kick, which was cleared.
John-Lewis and Pittman then almost worked an opening after Jolley brought the ball out of defence and although home keeper Tom Flynn got to the ball first, his clearance rebounded back off John-Lewis, though it didn’t go towards goal.
Alfreton’s first real attack saw Dan Bradley fire well wide from 20 yards after good work by striker Karl Hawley to beat Pearson.
John-Lewis drew a good save from Flynn with a low, first-time shot after a pass from Parslow on 10 minutes, before a volley by Clay called the keeper into action again seconds later as Town began to impose themselves on the game.
Midfielder Tom Shaw’s low shot from it was deflected out for a corner, which was headed clear by Gowling. A foul by Parslow gave the home side a free kick in a dangerous position on the left with 14 minutes on the clock.
Disley went close with a header after Robertson crossed from the left on 18 minutes but the skipper could only watch it drop wide of the far post.
Alfreton perhaps should have taken the lead five minutes later when a cross from the right found Jimmy Phillips in space near the penalty spot but he could not find a finish and Town cleared.
Clay almost picked out Mackreth with a superb cross-field pass from the left-back area but Luke Graham did well to get there first and prevent a shooting chance.
John-Lewis did manage to create an opening soon afterwards but he dragged a weak shot wide of the far post.
A home free kick was given when Hawley went down in a central position, 25 yards from goal but McKeown only had to make a simple catch from Shaw’s shot.
At the other end, a foul on John-Lewis gave the Mariners a free kick on the right but Mackreth’s ball was comfortably cleared.
A foul on Clay earned Bradley a talking to from the referee but Town could not cause any problems from the resulting free kick.
John-Lewis hit a 25-yard drive that Flynn had to dive to stop on 35 minutes, before Pittman got the ball through to his strike partner four minutes later but he could not work an opening to have a shot.
John-Lewis was involved again soon afterwards but he could not hit the target, instead dragging his low shot wide of the far post from 10 yards.
A cross from Jolley on the left was met by John-Lewis three minutes before the break as the visitors continued to dominate but again, he was unable to force it into the net.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and another Town attack saw Mackreth cross from the right but Jolley could not get to it ahead of keeper Flynn, who caught the ball.
That proved to be the last opportunity of a first half which Grimsby had controlled but rarely caused serious problems for Flynn or his defence.
At the other end, Town had been very comfortable and they would look to step things up after the interval in search of a vital breakthrough.
No changes were made before the restart and the hosts had the first opportunity of the second half, with Phillips shooting wide three minutes in.
At the other end, a run down the right by Mackreth led to a low cross that was touched back to keeper Flynn by Graham.
Hawley curled a cross-shot over the bar for Alfreton, before a spell of Town pressure ended with an offside decision.
John-Lewis sent Mackreth through down the right on 53 minutes but his low centre was cut out for a corner on the left, which was easily cleared.
Gowling had to make a vital interception to stop the ball being pushed through to Jake Speight as Alfreton looked to create an opening, before a shot by Pittman was blocked and John-Lewis hit an effort wide on he turn at the other end.
Mackreth won a corner on the right on the hour but it was headed away at the near post, then volleyed clear by Wood after the ball had been worked back.
Another corner followed a minute later and after it was cleared, Jolley brought the ball back and fired it across goal but nobody in the blue of the Mariners could get to it first and yet another corner was the result.
Palmer replaced Pittman as Town made the first substitution on 65 minutes, while Thanoj came on for Shaw for Alfreton soon afterwards.
Mackreth’s ball was worked back to him and his low shot was touched into the net by GOWLING to open the scoring. A cross from Jolley on the left was headed out for a corner four minutes later and from it, Town had their breakthrough.
Thanoj curled the free kick just wide at the near post. Arnold replaced Jolley after the goal and Alfreton’s response to going behind saw them win a free kick in a dangerous area when Clay was adjudged to have fouled Hawley.
Mackreth should have made it 2-0 on 72 minutes when he controlled a pass from John-Lewis but he could only watch as his shot from 12 yards came back off the post.
Phillips cleared the bar with a shot from distance for the home side after Hawley had held the ball up and it turned out to be Phillips’ last significant contribution as he was replaced by John Johnston.
But the referee allowed Town to play on and they could have extended their lead as Mackreth broke, only for his cross to come off a home defender to safety. The home fans thought they had got their equaliser when Hawley appeared to have forced the ball over the line off the bar with 11 minutes left.
Mackreth was finding acres of space down the right and he cut in from there on 82 minutes before firing a shot that Flynn had to dive to make a good stop from.
Thanoj curled the ball towards the far post but McKeown claimed it. Joe Ironside replaced Anthony Howell for the hosts with six minutes to go, before Speight won a free kick on the left a minute later.
The Mariners wrapped up all three points four minutes from time, when a cross from Clay was met at the far post by JOHN-LEWIS to head home in front of the travelling Town fans.
Chapell replaced Mackreth with a minute to go and Town comfortably saw out the four minutes of added time before celebrating another three points with their fans.
The Mariners are next in action when they entertain Wrexham on Saturday.