Gateshead 1 - 0 Grimsby Town
GRIMSBY Town were beaten for the first time since October as Gateshead claimed all three points at the International Stadium.
One goal proved enough for the hosts, who took the lead through Danny Johnson with three minutes on the clock.
The Mariners, backed by more than 1,000 travelling supporters, looked for a way back into the game but it was not to come.
Instead, their nine-match unbeaten run came to a halt and they fell further behind the National League’s top two of Forest Green Rovers and Cheltenham Town in the race for promotion.
Two changes were made to the Town side that enjoyed a comfortable win over Altrincham last week, with Danny East replacing Gregor Robertson and Jon Nolan coming in for Craig Clay.
James McKeown started in goal, with East lining up at right-back as Richard Tait moved to the left and the central defensive partnership of Josh Gowling and Toto Nsiala remained intact.
Nathan Arnold, Craig Disley, Nolan and Andy Monkhouse were the midfielders, with Omar Bogle and Padraig Amond continuing in attack.
The Grimsby substitutes were Marcus Marshall, Harry Clifton, Clay, Jon-Paul Pittman and Conor Henderson.
The home side went ahead with less than three minutes on the clock, as a high ball was headed by East but it was caught in the wind and came back for JOHNSON, who beat McKeown with a left-footed shot.
Town’s first chance of note came on six minutes, when Amond got his head to the ball inside the Gateshead penalty area but could only watch it go over the bar.
Former Town midfielder Paddy McLaughlin hooked a shot over the bar after Rob Ramshaw had been left on his own on 10 minutes, as the hosts seemed to be adapting to the conditions the better.
An Arnold corner on the quarter-hour was headed out for another one and at the second attempt, Bogle won the initial header but the referee then blew for a foul on home keeper Sam Russell.
The hosts were forced into an early substitution when Matty Pattison suffered an injury. CJ Hamilton was sent on in his place.
Bogle missed the target with a shot from 25 yards as the Mariners looked for a way back into the game, before Nsiala had to put in a good challenge to deny Jon Shaw at the other end, at the expense of a corner.
A foul on Nolan brought the first yellow card of the game for Gus Mafuta on the half-hour, before Disley headed clear from a Gateshead corner three minutes later.
The Mariners were struggling to impose themselves on the game through a combination of the windy conditions and Gateshead’s physical style of play.
A free kick from Gateshead’s Ben Clark looked to have caused problems as it went over McKeown’s head but luckily for the visitors, it also missed the target.
Bogle was caught offside as Town attacked just before the game moved into one added minute before the break.
And there was time for Nsiala to go into the referee’s notebook for a foul on Mafuta, although the resulting free kick went through to McKeown.
That meant it remained 1-0 to the home side at the interval, with Town having plenty to do in the second half if they were to leave with a positive result.
Pitman replaced Amond – who had picked up an injury - in the Grimsby attack before the restart and the first chance of the second half saw Nolan shoot wide after dispossessing Alex Whitmore.
The hosts then threatened to double their advantage on 50 minutes, when Tait had to clear off the line after a corner was not fully cleared.
Another home corner came three minutes later and was dealt with by Monkhouse, then a rising shot from Mafuta did not trouble McKeown.
The hosts had a further chance when Hamilton got past East down the Gateshead left but after he got into the box and squared the ball towards Johnson, a good challenge came in from Tait to prevent him from scoring.
At the other end, a shot from Arnold was blocked after he had been picked out by Pittman on the edge of the box.
Marshall came on in place of Monkhouse two minutes after the hour, before Tait was booked for a foul on Mafuta.
Nsiala put in a good challenge to stop a goalscoring opportunity after the ball was fired across by Johnson as Gateshead again looked for a second goal.
Then, the Mariners had a chance to put pressure on the home goal but Arnold’s delivery was cleared.
Town had shown more urgency after half-time but with 15 minutes to go, were yet to create a clear-cut opportunity which could get them back on level terms.
Nolan won a corner two minutes later but again, Arnold’s kick was cleared, as was Nolan’s return header.
At the other end, McLaughlin sent an effort over the bar, before Bogle was spoken to by the referee after an off-the-ball push on Clark.
Bogle was involved again soon afterwards, using his strength to get to the byline before cutting a shot across goal which was saved by Russell in the home goal.
Hamilton then beat East before seeing his shot saved by McKeown, then as the game continued to move from end to end, Nolan forced Russell into a good save with a shot from 25 yards.
Town were looking for an equaliser as the clock ticked down and Nolan was involve again on 84 minutes, bursting into the box but sending his cross out for a goal kick.
Jamie Chandler came on for the hosts with a minute to go, before an Arnold corner was cleared off the line.
Town kept the pressure up and after Gateshead failed to get the ball clear, Disley had an effort blocked before a shot from Pittman was deflected away for another corner.
Marshall was yellow-carded for a poor challenge on McLaughlin as Gateshead looked to break.
Three added minutes were signalled, giving the Mariners more time to push for that elusive equaliser.
But it was not to come as the hosts saw the additional minutes out to secure the win and move themselves closer to the play-off positions.
Town, meanwhile, slipped further behind their rivals at the top of the table, who both won.
The Mariners are next in action when they host Havant and Waterlooville in the FA Trophy on Saturday, before they will look to start a new unbeaten run in the league against Bromley on February 9.