Mariners’ Magnificent Seven Sends out Statement of Intent

10626596_830054813695124_5200881764952178473_nGRIMSBY Town’s bumper Bank Holiday weekend continued in style as they routed sorry Alfreton for seven goals at a wet and windy Blundell Park.

Paul Hurst’s men came into the game brimming with confidence after their 6-1 hammering of Gateshead on Saturday but they went one better on the afternoon thanks to a scintillating display of pace, power and precision.

The manager stuck with the same starting XI that triumphed so convincingly in the north-east but he made one key formation change, sending Jon-Paul Pittman through the middle alongside Lenell John-Lewis and placing Scott Neilson and Paddy McLaughlin on the wings in a more orthodox 4-4-2.

There was little sign of what was to come as the visitors enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges. Scott Brown was booked within 30 seconds for a rash challenge on the right side of midfield. And, from the free kick, the Reds won a corner that was headed well over by the crossbar by centre half Jordan Keane.

It was McLaughlin who fired the first warning shot on six minutes. He picked up a loose clearance from a long Brown free-kick but his left-foot effort was always curling away from the target.

The Mariners did take the lead from their next attack on nine minutes. It was a simple route one routine. Goalkeeper James McKeown launched a long ball down the centre of the park, Pittman won the flick on and John-Lewis powered past Duane Courtney before firing a fantastic finish across the face of Cameron Dawson’s goal and into the bottom right corner.

Only a fantastic save from Dawson prevented Neilson from doubling the advantage on 14 minutes. John-Lewis did well to shrug off two challenges before laying off for the former Crawley man 20 yards from goal. He danced his way into the penalty area, beating three men in the process, but was thwarted by a wonderful one-handed save from the Alfreton stopper, who had to adjust his position mid-dive.

Alfreton were struggling to get out of their own half but they were presented with a good opportunity just past the quarter-hour mark. A loose clearance from Neilson found Nathan Hicks, 25 yards out on the left, and he cut inside to try and curl the ball beyond McKeown but the Mariners’ custodian dived full length to tip the effort around the post.

This started a sustained period of Alfreton pressure and Toto Nsiala was next in the book for the hosts, as he was cautioned for hauling down Tom Shaw on the left-hand side of the penalty area.

The resulting free kick was taken quickly to Hicks, unmarked just outside the ‘D’, but he skewed his shot well wide of McKeown’s goal.

Town responded well and John-Lewis was inches away from his second of the afternoon on 25 minutes. The big frontman chested a ball down, fended off two challenges and saw his curling effort from 25 yards go just wide of the far post.

There was further woe for the visitors on 28 minutes when Courtney was forced out of the action to be replaced by former Lincoln defender Dan Gray.

And their misery was compounded on the half-hour mark as the hosts added a second in fine fashion.

Carl Magnay started the move with an excellent ball down the left wing for the run of Pittman. The former Wycombe man looked up and picked out John-Lewis in the middle; he met the cross at full pelt with a glancing header that hit the inside of the post and ricocheted off the back of the hapless Dawson and into the net.

Town poured forward with reckless abandon now and Neilson drew a booking from Rowe-Turner when the big defender felled him just beyond halfway.

The Mariners’ third goal arrived two minutes before the interval and again the front two combined in almost telepathic fashion.

There was some fine pressing in the middle of the park to force former Mariner Bradley Wood into a loose pass that only found John-Lewis. The striker swivelled and poked a lovely ball through for Pittman and he advanced to round Dawson and slot home easily as the home faithful showed their appreciation.

Alfreton knew that they needed a goal before the break if they were to get anything from the game but the only chance they could muster was easy for McKeown to gather. It came when a deep free kick from the right fell at the feet of former Mariners’ trialist Joe Ironside – he was falling as he looked to shoot and he could only stab a half-hearted effort through into the Town ‘keeper’s hands.

Anything that the Alfreton backroom staff said to their men at half-time went straight out of the window within a minute of the restart.

It was another fine move from Hurst’s men with Nsiala finding John-Lewis, who turned on a sixpence to thread a ball through for the run of Craig Clay. He raced clear and poked the ball beyond Dawson and in off the far post.

Town were rampant and they pressed forward in search of a fifth. Neilson sent John-Lewis clear in the right channel but Dawson stood up well to deny the Mariners’ striker.

Another quick free kick put the visitors under pressure on 54 minutes. Pittman was pushed wide though and when his pull-back found Neilson, the winger was also shepherded away from goal and his lob didn’t have enough power to trouble Dawson.

But there was only one side going to add to the tally and that was the hosts. The fifth should have arrived just two minutes later as Neilson teased and tormented Rowe-Turner on the right before pulling the ball back for McLaughlin. The Irishman aimed for the bottom corner but his shot whizzed inches wide of the target.

Dan Bradley was the second visiting player to go into the book for a late challenge on Clay one minute later, before Dawson did well to deny John-Lewis again on the hour, after the Town striker was released by a superb raking pass from Andrew Boyce.

Hurst made his first change on 62 minutes with Paul Bignot replacing Nsiala, who was on a booking, before the visitors were reduced to ten men three minutes later.

Anthony Howell lunged in at Brown with a reckless two-footed challenge, which sparked a 20-man melee in the Town half. The Alfreton man was shown a straight red for the tackle, whilst Magnay was also booked for his part in the aftermath.

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A huge 20-man melee breaks out at Blundell Park after Alfteton’s Anthony Howell goes in with a two-footed lunge on the Mariners’ Scott Brown.

The one-man advantage just allowed the Mariners to turn the screw even further. Neilson advanced from midfield and stung the palms of Dawson with a vicious dipping shot on 68 minutes before Jack Mackreth replaced the impressive Pittman.

Neilson was at it again two minutes later as he fed John-Lewis, 25 yards out, but the striker rushed his snapshot and it whistled wide of the target.

Town’s final substitution of the afternoon came on 77 minutes when youngster Caine Winfarrah replaced Magnay. And within a minute the Mariners were five goals to the good.

It was the pick of the bunch from Brown. The ex-Everton trainee picked up a loose ball in the centre before unleashing a wonderful 35-yard that nestled into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal – it was a fantastic way to open his Grimsby account.

McLaughlin was desperate for a goal and he should have had it with ten minutes remaining. Running at the Reds’ defence, the former York man slalomed his way past three challenges but saw his left-foot effort deflected wide for a corner.

Town players were queuing up to add to the scoreline. Mackreth was the threat down the right this time; he linked up well with Bignot, who saw his effort blocked. The ball fell invitingly for Clay but his effort was frantically cleared from inside the six-yard box by Keane.

But the midfielder would not be denied and added his second of the afternoon on 87 minutes. John-Lewis chased down a lost cause and managed to find Mackreth with his cut back. The winger advanced into the area and cut the ball back for Clay, who curled an exquisite effort into the far corner from 15 yards.

John-Lewis again got in down the right channel and his long cross to the far post was recovered well by Winfarrah. The young Town starlet picked out the run of McLaughlin in the centre but the midfielder couldn’t steer his header on target.

There was still time for the hosts to add a seventh though and it was another fine move that led to Neilson’s goal. John-Lewis provided the through ball again and the Mariners’ winger raced onto it before side-stepping Dawson and slotting into the empty net.

It was the icing on the cake of a remarkable weekend for a Mariners’ side that had previously struggled to create chances. Hurst’s men have made a massive statement of intent to the rest of the Vanarama Conference but the Town boss will now know that he will have to keep his players’ feet on the ground and manage the expectations of the Blundell Park faithful.

Mariners: McKeown; Nsiala (Bignot), Magnay (Winfarrah), Pearson, Boyce; Neilson, Clay, Brown, McLaughlin; Pittman (Mackreth), John-Lewis. Subs not used: Connell, Disley.

Reds: Dawson; Wood, Courtney (Gray), Keane, Rowe-Turner; Hicks, Bradley (Sheridan), Shaw, Howell; Ironside, Clayton (Stevenson). Subs not used: McDonald, Stewart.

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