GRIMSBY Town won for the second Saturday in succession as they reinforced their promotion claims with victory against lowly Nuneaton Town.
Jon-Paul Pittman’s goal set the Mariners on their way, before a late second from substitute Ross Hannah sealed the three points.
Town created the better chances throughout and rarely looked in trouble as they followed up their home win against league leaders Barnet by coming through a different sort of challenge in the West Midlands.
Two changes were made to the Grimsby side from the last league game against Barnet, with Craig Clay and Pittman coming in for Scott Brown and Lenell John-Lewis, who was injured in the extra time FA Trophy defeat at Gateshead in midweek.
James McKeown started in goal, with Daniel Parslow, Aristote Nsiala, Shaun Pearson and Carl Magnay forming the defence.
Jack Mackreth, Craig Disley, Clay and Nathan Arnold were the midfielders, with Pittman joining Oliver Palmer in attack.
The Grimsby substitutes were Paul Bignot, Paul Walker, Hannah, Paddy McLaughlin and Hamish Watson.
Nuneaton came into the game sitting second from bottom in the Conference table and desperate for maximum points to help improve their position.
They would be looking to Lee Fowler to dictate the game from midfield, although the main objective could have been to stop the Mariners from playing.
Pittman looked to have an early chance but was flagged offside, although home keeper Christian Dibble saved the striker’s shot in any case.
Palmer was tackled as he looked to get the ball across goal, before Pittman was again caught offside as the Mariners continued to probe in the early stages.
Clay hit a volley wide of the mark after a cross was headed down by Palmer on nine minutes.
This time, Parslow brought the ball clear and was fouled. The hosts retained possession though and they won another corner soon afterwards, which quickly led to a third after Gareth Dean got the ball back into the danger zone. Nuneaton then won the first corner of the game but Fowler’s kick was punched clear by McKeown.
Theo Streete was shown the first yellow card for a foul on Palmer, before another Nuneaton corner was dealt with by the Town defence.
A cross by Magnay at the other end was caught by Dibble and McKeown had a similar task soon afterwards when Fowler lifted a ball into the Grimsby penalty area.
The home side had a chance to open the scoring on 27 minutes when the ball was played through for Robert Ogleby and the offside flag stayed down but McKeown came off his line to block the striker’s shot.
Indecision from Parslow and then Nsiala almost presented Nuneaton with another chance but the defenders got away with the mistake as nobody was there to convert the opportunity.
The game had been scrappy and with few genuine chances, which continued when a Nuneaton free kick was claimed by McKeown.
Palmer looked to profit from the rebound but when he went down inside the box, the referee waved play on amid shouts for a penalty. Town then had an opportunity to take the lead when Arnold raced through but saw his shot saved by Dibble.
Pittman mis-kicked after Dibble could not get to a looping cross from Palmer as the Mariners continued to do most of the attacking.
A cross from Pittman then proved to be too close to the keeper a minute before the break.
Town kept pressing though and Pittman had the best chance so far when he cut in from the left and let fly with a shot from outside the box that hit the bar and bounced to safety.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the half and a shot from Ogleby for the hosts was straight at McKeown.
It ended an opening period where the visitors had created the better chances but were unable to get themselves ahead. Town looked to have won a corner but there was not time for them to take it as the half-time whistle blew.
No changes were made before the restart and the hosts had the first chance to put pressure on the opposition goal with an early corner, although Fowler’s delivery hit Ogleby and went out for a goal kick.
Another corner came when a cross from Gus Mafuta was put behind, although this time, Fowler’s kick was caught by McKeown.
The Town keeper was forced into action again on 49 minutes, saving after a mistake by Magnay let Andy Brown in.
At the other end, Palmer beat his man and hit a cross-shot that nobody could get on the end of to convert in front of the traveling Town fans.
Arnold’s rebound was blocked by Dible but PITTMAN was there to force the ball into the net and make it 1-0, before being shown the yellow card for celebrating with the Grimsby supporters. The Mariners finally made their breakthrough on 53 minutes, when a shot by Palmer came back off the post.
Town went in search of more goals and Palmer again beat his man down the left but could not get a shot away as the defender recovered to get the ball away for a corner.
A foul on Palmer gave the visitors a free kick level with the Nuneaton penalty area and after it was swung in, Dibble could not hold the ball and it fell for Palmer but he could not divert it goalwards.
Pittman went down with an injury on the hour and was replaced by Hannah.
Palmer cleared the bar with a shot on 65 minutes as Town continued to dominate the game, before the Mansfield loanee tried another effort two minutes later but could only hit keeper Dibble.
Hannah beat an offside trap soon afterwards and pulled the ball back for Clay but he could not extend Grimsby’s advantage, as his shot missed the target.
Mafuta was booked for kicking the ball away, before McLaughlin replaced Arnold for Town with a little more than 15 minutes to go.
Anton Brown was almost presented with a chance to level the scores after a mistake by Nsiala but Pearson was in the right place to block the attacker.
Fowler was replaced by Jack Nardiello for Nuneaton, with the hosts still posing little threat to McKeown’s goal.
As the game passed the 80-minute mark, Town looked to finish the game strongly and they continued to attack, winning a string of corners and putting pressure on Dibble’s goal.
Palmer and Hannah both had chances after good build-up play involving Parslow and Disley but neither could put the ball into the net.
But the next time the away side went forward, they made sure the game was won once and for all. A corner was headed on by Nsiala and HANNAH was in the right place to flick it into the net from close range and secure the points.
Watson replaced Palmer and after four added minutes were played, the Mariners came through comfortably to claim another victory on the road and extend the gap to sixth-placed Eastleigh to six points.
Town will have the opportunity to extend that gap further when they travel to Eastleigh on Tuesday.