CRAIG Disley’s early goal gave Grimsby Town a hugely important victory over in-form Wrexham at Blundell Park.
The skipper struck what proved to be the only goal to ensure a committed team performance in difficult conditions was rewarded with all three points.
Town were full of energy in an entertaining first half played between two teams pushing for play-off places.
And although their visitors had plenty of the ball, they were unable to find a way through the Grimsby defence and instead, saw their impressive unbeaten run of form end.
The result meant Town kept their cushion in third place in the table and by beating a fellow promotion contender, sent out a big message of intent for the rest of the season.
Two changes were made to the Town side that beat Bognor Regis Town in the FA Trophy last week, with Toto Nsiala and Craig Clay replacing Shaun Pearson and Danny East.
James McKeown started in goal, with Richard Tait, Nsiala, Josh Gowling and Evan Horwood forming the defence.
The midfielders were Nathan Arnold, Disley, Clay and Jon Nolan, while Padraig Amond and Pat Hoban were the strikers.
Pearson was named on the bench, alongside Gregor Robertson, Omar Bogle, Ryan Jennings and new loan signing Jordan Stewart.
Wrexham made the journey east from north Wales as one of the form teams in the division and after going nine games unbeaten, were looking to continue their play-off push by extending that run to 10 games.
Their starting XI included former Mariners loanees Jamal Fyfield, Simon Heslop and Connor Jennings, while striker Kayden Jackson scored for England C in midweek as he featured along with Clay in the 2-0 victory over Ukraine in Kiev.
An early Wrexham free kick eventually led to a ball from Fyfield bouncing over McKeown’s bar, before Blaine Hudson made a crucial interception to stop Nolan’s chip from getting through to Amond at the other end.
And from the flag, the Mariners took the lead, when Nolan’s delivery was cushioned down by Arnold for DISLEY, who shot into the top of the net from 12 yards. A great cross from Arnold on the right had to be put out for a corner by Mark Carrington before it could reach Nolan on six minutes.
Wrexham had an opportunity to hit back straight away when Carrington played the ball across the edge of the Town box but Fyfield could only lift his shot over the bar for a goal kick.
A foul on Tait by Simon Heslop gave Town a free kick near the right touchline on 10 minutes but Nolan’s ball was headed clear for a throw-in.
Hoban powered an effort over the bar soon afterwards after good work by Amond to hold the ball up, before a shot by Sean Newton was blocked for a corner after winger Rob Evans was fouled to bring about a free kick to the visitors.
Hoban almost had another chance when a cross from Tait was aimed in his direction but the striker failed to connect with an attempted overhead kick.
A volley from Clay then cleared Rhys Taylor’s goal after a cross from Horwood on the left was headed away, as the home side’s good start to the game continued.
At the other end, Gowling conceded a corner on 20 minutes but Lee Fowler’s delivery was caught by McKeown.
From the flag, Nsiala won the header but the ball went out to the left, where Arnold collected it but could only find keeper Taylor with his ball back into the box. Fyfield headed the ball out for a corner on the Grimsby right after another attack from the hosts.
Hoban saw a shot deflected away by Carrington for a corner after he was found inside the box by Horwood but Nolan’s delivery from the flag was cleared.
Wrexham were looking to put some pressure on the Town defence as the half-hour mark passed but they were not enjoying much success with a strong wind at their backs against an assured Mariners backline.
Another chance for Town came on 37 minutes when Amond linked up well with Hoban but the latter’s shot was deflected wide of the far post for a corner.
A header by Hoban bounced wide after a cross from Arnold on the right as the home side continued to attack.
Wrexham had not managed many attempts at goal but they went close through Evans five minutes before the break, with his shot from the edge of the box hitting Disley and looping over the bar for a corner.
The Mariners survived though and cleared their lines. That proved to be the start of a spell of pressure by the visitors, who saw the ball cleared off the line from the flag-kick before keeping Town pinned inside their own final third with a throw-in near the corner flag.
He then touched the ball through for Nolan but the midfielder could not connect with a shot and the chance was gone. Grimsby then almost carved out an opportunity to double their lead when Hoban’s lay-off found Horwood on the left.
One added minute was signalled to be played at the end of the half and that time brought the first yellow card of the game for Jennings after a foul on Gowling.
With no further chances for either side before the referee’s half-time whistle, the Mariners went into the dressing rooms with an advantage they richly deserved after a first-half performance full of energy.
The resulting free kick from the left touchline was swung in by Carrington but headed clear by Tait. Wes York replaced Fowler for the away side before the restart and the substitute’s first involvement saw him fouled by Tait, who was booked.
Tait had to concede a corner on 49 minutes and after the ball was initially cleared from it, the visitors kept possession and a chipped cross led to Jennings heading wide.
Carrington’s kick was headed back to him, then his second cross was hacked away by Disley. Town’s first attack of the half saw a left-wing cross by Nolan cleared by Newton, before Tait conceded another corner on the left.
Town won a fortuitous corner at the other end when a header back from Evans bounced over his keeper on 57 minutes but the home side were unable to make the opportunity from the flag count.
Soon afterwards, Wrexham had a chance to equalise when a cross from Heslop found its way through to Newton but his volley from 18 yards flew just wide of the far post for a goal kick.
Nolan had a shot blocked at the other end after an attempted clearance went straight to him but at the hour, it was Wrexham who were doing most of the attacking as they looked for an equalising goal.
Hoban missed the target from distance for Town after Clay was bundled over, then a free kick from Nolan on the right was cleared before Gowling could get a shot away.
Javan Vidal replaced Carrington in Wrexham’s second substitution on 65 minutes, with conditions worsening as rain added to the strong wind.
Clay had a good chance to double the Mariners’ advantage when a cross from Arnold was headed down to him but the midfielder could only fire over the bar.
Newton sliced a clearance which was taken out for a Town corner by the wind and from it, the ball bounced around the Wrexham box and a shot was cleared off the line, before the referee eventually blew for an away free kick.
Town were getting back on top and a great ball from Amond found Nolan on 69 minutes but the midfielder forced himself wide and shot just wide under pressure from keeper Taylor.
This time, the ball was headed back to Nolan and after a chipped cross from Tait, Hoban’s header bounced back off the bar. Hoban did well to win a corner six minutes later and it quickly led to another as Nolan’s ball was headed behind at the far post.
The final Wrexham change came with 13 minutes to go and saw Mark Beck replace Evans, before Bogle came on in place of Amond for the Mariners three minutes later.
Arnold could only find keeper Taylor with his header after meeting a left-wing cross from Horwood as Town looked for a second goal which would make the points safe.
But Wrexham were still desperately trying to force a leveller, looking for the giant Beck with long throws into the Grimsby penalty area.
Town appealed for a penalty with two minutes left after Hoban went down under a challenge from Taylor inside the box but the referee instead booked the striker after ruling he had dived.
Four added minutes were signalled and Clay was the latest to be shown a yellow card after kicking the ball away before a free kick.
A break by the Mariners through Arnold on the right came as the hosts looked to seal the victory with a second goal but nobody was at the near post to convert his cross and Wrexham escaped.
At the other end, the away side threw everything at the Town defence for the remainder of the game but despite a penalty appeal and a last-gasp corner, the Mariners held on and took the acclaim of their fans after an excellent display and result.
The Easter programme continues when the Mariners visit Macclesfield Town on Monday.