GRIMSBY Town will go into the play-offs with a spring in their step after a comfortable victory over Aldershot in their last game of the regular season at Blundell Park.
A much-changed Mariners side dominated throughout, with a quickfire brace from recalled striker Ross Hannah effectively sealing the three points with just 16 minutes on the clock.
Town then added to their lead after half-time when Jon-Paul Pittman got his name on the scoresheet, before the visitors grabbed a late consolation as Jordan Roberts struck from a free kick.
Grimsby boss Paul Hurst again shuffled his pack, with one eye on Thursday’s play-off semi-final first leg.
Five changes were made to the side that drew at Southport last week, which itself had seen six alterations from the previous week’s home reverse to Wrexham.
In came Paul Bignot, Toto Nsiala, Craig Disley, Jack Mackreth and Hannah, with Carl Magnay, Shaun Pearson, Craig Clay, Paddy McLaughlin and Ollie Palmer making way.
James McKeown started in goal, with Bignot, Nsiala, Josh Gowling and Daniel Parslow forming the defence.
Jordan Chapell, Disley, Scott Brown and Mackreth were the midfielders, with Pittman partnering Hannah in attack.
The Town substitutes were Lenell John-Lewis, Clay, McLaughlin, Palmer and Josh Sunter.
in the table at kick-off.thAldershot travelled north with nothing to play for, having secured their Conference place for next season and sitting 18
The Shots line-up included former Town player Sam Hatton, who left Blundell Park last summer.
Strikers Brett Williams and Andre McCollin would be looking to score the goals to ensure the Hampshie side’s season ended on a high.
An early cross from Hannah on the Town left was cleared before it could reach Pittman, then the first corner came but Brown’s cross after it was half-cleared was headed away by Sean McGinty.
Hannah turned and shot from 20 yards on six minutes as Town’s positive start continued but the striker’s right-footed effort did not worry visiting keeper Phil Smith as it went high over the bar.
A foul by Parslow gave the away side a free kick near the halfway line but the ball into the Town box was dealt with by Nsiala.
An intelligent pass from Brown sent Hannah through into the box on 11 minutes to create another chance for the hosts but a good block by defender Glen Wilson thwarted the attacker.
The Mariners took the lead with their next attack, as Disley’s ball found HANNAH, who beat the Aldershot offside trap and kept his composure to slot it past keeper Smith for 1-0.
A ball from Pittman sent HANNAH clear and as Smith raced off his line, the former Bradford City forward calmly lifted it over him and into the far corner of the net. And he was on-target again two minutes later to double the Mariners’ lead.
Aldershot were yet to show any real attacking threat as the clock ticked past the 20-minute mark as Grimsby dominated.
Midfielder Mark Molesley was shown the first yellow card of the game for bringing Brown down near the halfway line, before a promising move from the visitors ended as Disley calmly headed the ball back to McKeown after a cross from the right.
Chris Barker quickly followed his team-mate Molesley into the referee’s notebook, again for a foul on Brown, and the resulting free kick eventually led to a corner on the right.
The scoreline remained at 2-0 though, as the ball dropped just wide of Smith’s target. Hannah tried a speculative shot from the halfway line as he looked to complete his hat-trick in audacious fashion two minutes before the half-hour.
A ball into the Town box by Molesley was headed away by Gowling as Aldershot looked to get back into the game, before the visitors won a corner on the right, which was headed clear by Pittman.
Hatton lofted a shot from 35 yards which went well over McKeown’s bar, before another shot from distance had a similar result as the home keeper remained untroubled.
The referee had other ideas though, signalling for an Aldershot free kick for a foul. A cross from Chapell was cut out for a corner before it could reach Pittman on the six-yard line and after Brown’s ball was headed out for another flag-kick, the Mariners thought they had got a third goal as Gowling’s header was touched into the net by Hannah.
Williams won a corner for Aldershot in the last minute of the half but the away side could not make it count as Disley headed the ball clear.
One added minute was then signalled and after it passed with no further chances created by either side, Town’s lead remained intact at the halfway point.
No changes were made before the restart and Pittman won the first corner of the second half three minutes in but Disley’s header from it was deflected out for a goal kick.
At the other end, a whipped cross from Molesley was aimed towards Williams but he could not convert it and instead, the ball went out for a goal kick.
The ball was played through for PITTMAN and he showed good strength to hold Wilson off before firing past Smith in front of the Pontoon Stand. Grimsby’s next attack saw them kill off the contest once and for all as they scored a third goal.
Pittman was in action at the other end soon afterwards to head a Hatton corner clear, before Shots keeper Smith did well to stop a deflected Chapell shot from going out for a corner.
Giorgio Rasulo replaced McCollin up front for the visitors just after the hour, before John-Lewis was sent on in place of Pittman for the Mariners soon afterwards.
Gowling was booked for a foul on Molesley in a central position but Hatton could not profit from the resulting free kick, lifting it over the bar from 30 yards.
Mackreth won a corner at the other end on 70 minutes and Brown’s delivery was headed away, before Mackreth brought the ball back but put his cross out of play for a goal kick.
Jim Stevenson replaced Wilson in the Aldershot defence for the last 19 minutes and Sunter was given his Town debut in the week he signed a professional deal with the club as he came on for Nsiala on 75 minutes.
The visitors had a good chance to pull a goal back on 79 minutes when substitute Rasulo found Williams in the box but his shot was stopped by McKeown.
Clay replaced Mackreth as the Mariners made their third and final substitution, before Ryan Jarvis replaced Williams for the visitors.
Aldershot managed to pull a goal back with four minutes to go, when they won a free kick 30 yards out and ROBERTS stepped up to send a brilliant shot into the net in front of the 102 travelling fans.
Town went looking for a fourth goal but John-Lewis could not provide it as he lifted a shot over the bar from inside the box.
One added minute was signalled and a volley by Chapell was blocked, before Town won a corner on the left but Brown’s kick was headed onto the roof of the net by John-Lewis.
That proved to be the last action of the game – and the regular season – with Town now able to switch their full focus to the play-offs.
They will next be in action in the first leg of the semi-final on Thursday, when they will travel to Eastleigh before returning to Blundell Park for the second leg on Sunday.