GRIMSBY Town came through a tough pre-season test with flying colours as they beat Championship side Derby County at Blundell Park.
After Paul Clement’s multi-million-pound side dominated the early stages, the Mariners took the lead against the run of play through Padraig Amond.
And it got even better for the hosts three minutes later, when Craig Clay made it 2-0.
Town had chances to add to their lead before half-time but after Derby changed their entire XI at the break, they managed to pull a goal back through Johnny Russell’s free kick three minutes after the restart.
Grimsby were forced to defend for much of the second half as their visitors pushed forward in search of an equaliser.
But it was not to come, as the Mariners held out for an impressive - and deserved - victory.
Town started with James McKeown in goal, behind a back four of Richard Tait, Shaun Pearson, Toto Nsiala and Danny East.
Jack Mackreth, Craig Disley, Clay and Marcus Marshall were the midfielders, with Amond and Jon-Paul Pittman starting in attack.
Derby included former England striker Darren Bent in their starting XI, along with new signing Tom Ince.
And it was Ince who had the first chance of the game from a free kick on seven minutes, which he sent just wide of McKeown’s goal from 25 yards.
Town’s first attack of note came through Marshall down the left but after cutting into the box, he was unable to cause any serious problems for the visiting defence.
Bent looked to have an opportunity on 13 minutes after Disley gave the ball away in midfield but as the striker advanced towards the penalty area, good covering by Nsiala saw the ball go through to McKeown.
As had been expected, Derby were dominating possession in the early stages but the Championship side had created little to seriously trouble the Town defence as the 20-minute mark passed.
Mackreth’s ball from the flag was then put wide by Disley. Clay took the set-piece himself and his delivery fell for Pittman, who won a corner at the far post. Clay took advantage of a slip in the Derby defence to run down the left and draw a foul which led to a Town free kick in a dangerous area a minute later.
Mackreth crossed from the right and after Disley headed the ball on, AMOND was in the right place to sweep it into the bottom corner past visiting keeper Lee Grant. The first goal of the game came on 24 minutes and it was the Mariners who took an unlikely lead.
Another cross from the Grimsby right three minutes later, this time from Tate, again fell for Amond but this time, his header back across goal was caught by Grant.
But it did not take long for the Mariners to extend their lead, as CLAY won the ball in midfield and gave it to Pittman, who played it back to him to crash a shot into the net from the edge of the box for 2-0.
The striker could only send a weak header through to the keeper. And it could have been three before the half-hour, as Mackreth took advantage of slack play by Grant but looked to pick out Pittman instead of shooting.
After a period with the Mariners on top, Derby came back into the game as half-time approached and re-established their grip on possession, albeit without seriously threatening McKeown’s goal.
And that was the way it stayed until the interval, with Derby keeping the ball but not being able to create any further chances, meaning Town’s two-goal advantage remained intact at the halfway point.
Derby boss Clement swapped his entire XI before the restart, with the second-half team including former England goalkeeper Scott Carson and ex-Aston Villa striker Andreas Weimann.
Town manager Paul Hurst opted not to make any substitutions at half-time, sticking with the same team that had performed so well in the first half.
The visitors won an early free kick on the edge of the Grimsby box and from it, they pulled a goal back as RUSSELL stepped up and curled the ball into the top corner, leaving McKeown with no chance.
McKeown punched the delivery back to taker Russell, before the keeper was called into action again seconds later and made a good save at the expense of another corner. Derby had started the second half well and they won a corner on the right seven minutes in.
The pressure was building on the Town goal and another corner came when Nsiala sliced the ball out but this time, McKeown was not required to make a save.
Nsiala did well to thwart another Derby attack on 58 minutes and although it led to another corner, the flag-kick from the right caused no problems as McKeown made a comfortable catch.
The keeper managed to get to the ball from the flag though, punching it away as Disley looked to connect with a header. Town had a corner of their own on the hour, when Carson slipped as he tried to connect with a back-pass.
Town boss Hurst made a triple substitution on 63 minutes, sending Nathan Arnold on for Amond, Josh Gowling on for Pearson and Harry Clifton on for Marshall.
Derby had shown less of a threat since the opening 10 minutes of the half but McKeown had to produce a brilliant save from a 25-yard shot to keep his team ahead, as the attempt from Conor Sammon looked to be heading towards the top corner.
A Russell free kick from the right on 76 minutes caused no problems, before Tait won a free kick for the Mariners inside the Derby half two minutes later.
Another two Town substitutions were made with 10 minutes to go, as Tait was replaced by Josh Sunter and Josh Venney came on for Disley.
As the clock ticked past the 85-minute mark, Derby pushed forward in search of an equaliser but and the Mariners were forced to defend two corners in relatively quick succession, which they managed comfortably.
Two minutes of added time were played at the end of the match and the Mariners were able to see them out to record their second win from two pre-season games so far.
They are next in action on Tuesday, when they travel to North Ferriby United.