GRIMSBY Town overcame a spirited Bognor Regis Town to seal their place in the FA Trophy final at Wembley Stadium.
The Mariners, leading 1-0 from the first leg on the south coast last week, doubled their advantage when Padraig Amond converted an early penalty.
But it was far from a case of being game over, as the visitors rallied and equalised on the day through Dan Beck.
Bognor grew in confidence and showed signs they may yet be capable of levelling the tie overall but any home nerves were settled when Amond struck again to give Town their two-goal cushion back.
They will now head to the capital on May 22, when they will face FC Halifax Town at the national stadium.
Town boss Paul Hurst named arguably his strongest available line-up for the visit of the Rocks, sending out a clear message of his intentions for the afternoon.
Just one change was made to the team that drew 2-2 at Guiseley in midweek, with Danny East coming into the XI in place of the ineligible Ryan Jennings.
James McKeown started in goal, with Richard Tait, Shaun Pearson, Josh Gowling and Evan Horwood forming the defence.
East began on the right of midfield, with Craig Disley, Jon Nolan and Nathan Arnold making up the central quartet.
Amond and Patrick Hoban were again selected as the front two, with Gregor Robertson, Omar Bogle, Craig Clay, Josh Venney and Toto Nsiala all named as substitutes.
Bognor Regis made the long journey north looking to overturn a one-goal deficit from last week’s first leg, where Arnold’s goal gave the Mariners their narrow advantage at the midpoint in the tie.
The Ryman Premier League side would look to strikers Jason Prior and Ollie Pearce to provide the ammunition for a comeback as they aimed for a shock result.
An early blow for the visitors came when right-back Calvin Davies picked up an injury in a challenge and went down again soon afterwards, indicating he could not continue. He was replaced by Harvey Whyte on three minutes.
Town were doing the early attacking, although their opponents had the first chance of the afternoon on five minutes. It was not taken though, as the ball bounced around in the Town box but when the eventual shot came in from Dan Beck, the contact was not clean enough to take the ball past McKeown.
And the visitors were left to rue that missed opportunity when the Mariners were gifted the lead on the day just two minutes later. Amond was pulled down inside the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. AMOND took the kick and confidently sent the ball into the net from 12 yards to double the hosts’ aggregate lead.
It could have been 2-0 on the day on 12 minutes, when Hoban beat visiting keeper Grant Smith to the ball and headed it back across goal but Amond could not take advantage as he headed it wide.
Smith came off worst in the challenge with Hoban and sustained a head injury but after a lengthy delay, the keeper was passed fit to continue.
A great strike from Horwood from 30 yards flashed just wide of the mark as Town looked for a second goal which would almost certainly guarantee their place in the final.
At the other end, Bognor attacks were few and far between, with McKeeown’s only real task being to comfortably collect a cross from Pearce on the left.
East then powered a shot over the bar from 20 yards after defender Sami El-Abd had given the ball away.
Arnold set off on a run through the middle on 27 minutes and let fly with a shot from 25 yards that Smith did well to parry clear. The ball was then put out for a corner but Smith got to ball from the flag ahead of Disley.
A foul by Horwood on winger Alex Parsons gave the away side a chance to attack with a free kick from the right, although Pearce’s kick was headed clear by Disley.
But Bognor retained possession and seconds later, they were back level on the day. A long throw from the left was headed down and BECK struck a crisp volley from the edge of the box that nestled in the bottom corner of McKeown’s net.
Town immediately went on the attack in search of the goal that would give them their two-goal aggregate cushion back and they almost had it when Arnold found himself with the ball in the Bognor box but Smith did well to block the winger’s shot.
The away side were now full of confidence and they attacked again through Pearce on the left. He beat Gowling and won a corner, which was headed away by the centre-back.
A Town corner from Nolan on the right was eventually cleared by defender Chad Field after Hoban could not work an opening for a shot, before Hoban won a header on 38 minutes to get the ball through to Amond, although he was flagged offside.
The away side had visibly grown in confidence since getting themselves on the scoreboard and the game was now moving from end to end, with a feeling the next goal could be a crucial one.
Horwood beat Whyte down the Town left after god work by Arnold on 42 minutes but after cutting into the box, the left-back could not pick out a team-mate with his cross and Smith gathered the ball.
Two minutes later, the visitors went close to taking the lead when Prior hit an excellent shot from 25 yards that McKeown did well to touch away for a corner.
Four added minutes were signalled at the end of the half and Pearson became the first of the afternoon to be shown a yellow card in the second of those minutes.
A long ball into the box from Pearson was headed goalwards by Hoban but his effort lacked power and direction and bounced just wide.
That proved to be the last chance for either side before the referee’s half-time whistle blew, with Town still holding an aggregate lead but with their visitors perhaps the happier of the two sides at the interval after getting themselves back into the tie.
No further changes were made before the restart and the away side had the first opportunity to attack with a free kick from halfway. The delivery into the box was won by Pearson, before East completed the clearance.
A foul on Whyte by Horwood brought another free kick, this time from the right and around 10 yards from the corner flag. Disley headed it clear.
Town had a chance to seal their passage to Wembley on 53 minutes when a cross from the left fell for Hoban but he could not keep his volley from eight yards down and instead, watched the ball go over the bar.
Alfie Rutherford replaced Parsons for Bognor two minutes later and the substitute’s first involvement was to catch Pearson in the face with a high boot. The defender was passed fit to continue after receiving treatment.
Town won a corner on the right on 62 minutes but Nolan’s delivery was headed away from danger by El-Abd.
A foul by Nolan on Prior earned the midfielder a yellow card, before a foul on East brought an opportunity for the Mariners to get the ball into the Bognor penalty area. Tait initially played it short to Hoban, then got it back but could only find keeper Smith.
Another chance almost came when Nolan won a loose ball near the edge of the box and pushed it through for Amond but the striker was forced wide and could not get a shot away.
Gary Charman replaced Snorre Nilsen in the Bognor Regis midfield with a little less than 20 minutes to go, as manager Jamie Howell looked for something different in a bid to complete the comeback.
Soon afterwards, the Mariners had another chance to make the result safe when Arnold set off on a driving run through the middle. He then played it through for Amond but Smith came off his line and did well to block the striker’s shot.
Charman’s first real involvement of note was to hit an effort from 25 yards which McKeown had to dive full-length to stop. It came at a time when Town appeared to be in control but served as a reminder that the visitors were not out of the contest.
Bogle came on for Hoban in the Grimsby attack with 15 minutes to go and two minutes later, the tie was finally put out of the away side’s reach. A ball across the six-yard box from Tait found AMOND and he finished well from close range to make it 2-1 on the day and 3-1 overall.
A flashpoint came on 80 minutes, when Bogle and Beck were involved in a confrontation on the touchline in front of the away dugout. Both were booked, as was Amond soon afterwards for preventing a free kick from being taken.
Rutherford became the latest player to be booked after a foul on Nolan with six minutes remaining.
Clay replaced Nolan in the centre of the Town midfield and after four minutes of added time were signalled, the final home change saw Venney come on for Amond.
Bognor, to their credit, finished the game strongly and they had a last chance to secure a draw on the day when El-Abd had a shooting opportunity from inside the box. He put the ball over the bar though and soon afterwards, the referee’s final whistle confirmed Town’s place in the final.
The Mariners now return to league action, with Wrexham the visitors to Blundell Park on Saturday.