Forest Green Rovers 0 - 1 Grimsby Town
CRAIG Disley’s headed goal gave Grimsby Town a superb away victory over Forest Green Rovers at The New Lawn.
A solid defensive display provided the foundations for the win, with Shaun Pearson and Josh Gowling both outstanding at the back for the Mariners.
The hosts, who had not suffered a league defeat since Boxing Day, did most of the attacking but could not find a way past the Town defence.
And after the skipper struck with what turned out to be the only goal, Town held firm to ensure they would take all three points back home with them.
In a clash between the division’s second and third-placed teams, it was far from a classic but the 350-plus Town fans in attendance and those watching on television at home would not have cared as they claimed a gutsy win.
New loan signing Pat Hoban came straight into the starting XI in place of Jon-Paul Pittman as the only change to the Grimsby team which started the FA Trophy win over Woking on Saturday.
James McKeown started in goal, with Richard Tait, Pearson, Gowling and Evan Horwood making up the defence.
Nathan Arnold, Disley, Jon Nolan and Andy Monkhouse were the midfielders, while Hoban started alongside Padraig Amond in attack.
The Town substitutes were Pittman, Gregor Robertson, Craig Clay, Toto Nsiala and Ryan Jennings.
Forest Green came into the game looking for the win that would take them above Cheltenham to the top of the National League.
Among the men looking to cause problems for the Town defence were veteran striker Jon Parkin and former Barnet winger Keanu Marsh-Brown.
Town had the first attack of the game but Arnold’s cross from the right took a deflection and went through to home keeper Steve Arnold.
The hosts’ first opening came on seven minutes but after the ball was worked in from the left, midfielder Darren Carter could not take advantage and his shot ricocheted back for a goal kick.
Overall, it had been a cagey opening to the game by both sides, with a lack of goalmouth action over the first 10 minutes.
Parkin was involved in a tussle with Gowling and then Pearson inside the Town penalty area on 14 minutes but after the striker went down, play continued and McKeown eventually managed to dive on the ball and stop the danger.
Gowling had to clear a cross from Elliott Frear on the left as the hosts attacked again, although an offside decision soon afterwards gave the Mariners a chance to get the ball back into the Forest Green half.
Arnold had a shot blocked from long range, before a good cross from Marsh-Brown on the right was held by McKeown.
Town won the first corner of the game on 25 minutes but Nolan’s ball was headed clear by Parkin. The ball was then worked back to Nolan on the left and he crossed a second time but it was headed away again.
Frear won a corner at the other end after a nice pass from Parkin had sent him into the box and it soon led to another as Horwood headed behind. This time, Marsh-Brown’s ball beat everybody and went out at the far post for a goal kick.
Home keeper Arnold was called into action for the first time when Hoban hit a drive from 25 yards that had to be tipped over the bar for a corner. From the flag, the ball was played low to Amond but the striker lifted his shot well over the bar.
A foul on Parkin gave the home side a free kick just inside the Town half but Marsh-Brown’s delivery into the box was headed clear.
Town then had a great chance to take the lead when a cross from the right found its way through to Monkhouse, although he could only head wide at the far post.
A cross from Marsh-Brown on the right on 39 minutes was missed by everybody and Frear picked the ball up on the left but his return cross was held by McKeown.
Town had another corner after Hoban clipped a ball forward towards Arnold but when the ball came in from the right flag, the referee blew for a foul and a home free kick.
A foul by Horwood on Marsh-Brown brought another Rovers free kick but the left-back was in the right place to head the ball clear after the winger’s delivery.
Forest Green had the final chance to break the deadlock before half-time after the referee played an advantage and Carter shot from 20 yards but he could only hit the side-netting.
That meant it remained level at the break, with the Mariners more than holding their own in defence and showing some signs of promise in attack.
No changes were made before the restart and Town almost had the first chance of the second half when a cross from the left fell for Arnold but he could not get a connection on it.
At the other end, a weak volley from Carter went through to McKeown.
Carter had another effort blocked for a corner after Parkin had found Frear on the left on 53 minutes. Town half-cleared the ball from the flag but it was worked back for Marsh-Brown to have a shot, which was deflected out for another corner.
Marsh-Brown took another free kick from midway inside the Town half soon afterwards and this time, it was headed behind for a corner by Pearson, meaning the home pressure continued. But again, they were unable to profit, as a goalbound effort was blocked.
Forest Green had done all of the attacking since the interval and they were presented with another opportunity when Disley’s loose pass in midfield let Frear in. But again, the hosts did not take their chance, as the winger passed to Carter but he lifted his shot over the stand behind the goal.
A free kick on the edge of the centre circle gave Marsh-Brown another chance to get the ball into the danger zone but again, Town were solid in defence, with Disley heading clear.
Town had offered little in attack in the second half so far but they created a good chance against the run of play on 65 minutes, when Hoban turned and shot from inside the box and keeper Arnold had to push the ball behind for a corner.
Hoban won another corner on 70 minutes but Town could not trouble the home defence from it, as an attempted shot from Disley was cleared after Pearson had won the initial header.
But a minute later, the Mariners had the lead, when a cross from Monkhouse on the left found DISLEY and he headed it into the bottom corner of the net in front of the 351 travelling supporters.
The goal had come against the run of play but it gave Town something precious to hold onto for the rest of the game.
Forest Green’s response was to send Kieffer Moore on in place of Carter in an attempt to swing fortunes back in their favour
The Mariners almost made it 2-0 on 74 minutes, when Arnold found Amond on the right. The ball eventually came to Monkhouse but his shot was saved by keeper Arnold, who pushed it up and onto the post.
And another opportunity to double their advantage came with 10 minutes to go, when a low cross from Horwood found Amond but the striker’s first-time shot was too high.
Brett Williams replaced Parkin in the home attack soon afterwards, before Grimsby’s first change saw Pittman come on for Amond with seven minutes left.
Kurtis Guthrie then came on in place of Frear to complete Forest Green’s substitutions, with the Mariners still holding their advantage.
The home side won a corner on 85 minutes but again, the danger was dealt with by the Town defence.
But Rovers had another opportunity when a foul by Pittman gave them a free kick 25 yards out. James Jennings stepped up to take it but he could only shoot at McKeown.
The home pressure continued with a Marsh-Brown free kick but again, it did not lead to a goalscoring opportunity.
Nsiala was sent on in place of Hoban as the clock ticked past the 90-minute mark, with Town looking to see out the remainder of the game.
Four added minutes were signalled by the fourth official and the home side pushed forward again, looking for a late leveller.
Another free kick just outside the centre circle gave them a further opportunity to get the ball into the danger zone but when it was pumped into the Town box, the referee blew for a foul on McKeown.
And that proved to be their last chance, as the Mariners saw out the remaining time to seal a priceless three points.
They are next in action on Tuesday, when Southport are the visitors to Blundell Park.