Grimsby Town 1 FC Halifax Town 0
SHAUN Pearson’s first-half header earned Grimsby Town a 1-0 win over FC Halifax Town, marking a fifth successive league closing the gap on Vanarama Conference leaders Barnet, who slipped to a 3-2 home defeat against Torquay United.
It was a thoroughly deserved victory for Paul Hurst’s men in an exciting game at Blundell Park against a side that the Mariners struggled against last season.
The most telling statistic on the night was the fact that the Shaymen registered no shots on target, despite some late pressure, and indeed the Mariners could have had more goals with a little better composure in front of goal.
Manager Hurst rang the changes after the disappointment of Saturday’s FA Cup defeat to Oxford, welcoming Harry Pell and Carl Magnay back into the ranks for Craig Clay and Jack Mackreth, whilst Scott Neilson replaced Jon-Paul Pittman in the final third of the field.
Town were backed by a noisy home following and were on the front foot within the opening five minutes.
Man-of-the-match Nathan Arnold whipped in a second minute corner that was flicked on by Lennell John-Lewis, with Toto Nsiala being inches away from getting the final touch.
Pell and Magnay then combined on the right to cross into the danger area, the ball eventually worked its way out to Parslow, who fired wide from 25 yards.
John-Lewis was in the thick of the opening action, powering down the right channel to latch onto Magnay’s through ball but seeing his shot blocked, before the Lower Findus stand became incensed as the striker was booked for a sliding challenge on halfway.
The visitors were struggling to get in the game and that was no more apparent than in the 18th-minute when Pell and Neilson broke at pace from a Shaymen corner and the former shot powerfully with Matt Glennon spilling into the path of one of his defenders.
Still John-Lewis continued to be involved and he was unfortunate to see an acrobatic effort drift just wide after Arnold flicked on Magnay’s cross.
Town’s top scorer should have opened the scoring on 22 minutes. Arnold’s delivery from the right was inch-perfect but John-Lewis got underneath his header and it cleared the crossbar.
Neilson had been a thorn in the Shaymen’s side in the reverse fixture back in September and he was again creating space with a weaving run that set John-Lewis free on the left four minutes later, the big striker forcing a smart save from Glennon down low.
And the big stopper pulled of a marvellous save on the half-hour to deny Neilson a fantastic goal. The winger tricked and teased the visiting defence before making an angle to curl a wonderful 25-yard effort that looked destined for the top corner.
But Glennon was equal to the task, finger-tipping the shot over to much acclaim from the 3,000-plus crowd.
Still Town pressed and Parslow was the next player to rue his luck as his point-blank effort from another Arnold set-piece was somehow scrambled over by a combination of Glennon and one of his defenders.
The Shaymen’s defence was finally breached on 40 minutes and it came as no surprise to see Arnold as the supply line. This time his corner pinpointed the run of Pearson and the big defender powered home a header from inside the six-yard box for his second goal in as many games.
That sprung the away side into life and they were unfortunate not to level on the stroke of half-time. Defender Marc Roberts got on the end of a corner but saw Craig Disley scramble his effort away before Ross Dyer fired the rebound harmlessly wide.
Shaymen boss Neil Aspin was obviously unhappy with his side’s performance and he replaced Dyer with influential midfielder Matty Pearson, which gave the West Yorkshire club a more steadying aspect in the middle.
And Halifax’s best spell came in the 15 minutes after the break. Magnay’s slip allowed Lois Maynard in but Nsiala was there to make a block before Paul Marshall tried to catch out James McKeown with two long-range free kicks that both ended up in the side netting.
Magnay was forced off through injury and that prompted a reshuffle from Hurst with sub Craig Clay going into the middle, Disley taking on the holding role and Parslow moving to right back.
Then, twice in 60 seconds, the Mariners were desperately unlucky not to double their lead. Arnold’s 57th-minute cross-cum-shot looked to have evaded Glennon but the stopper arched back to tip the ball onto the crossbar, before Pell’s header from the resulting corner was cleared off his own line by Simon Ainge.
Set pieces were the way forward for both sides as the Pearsons, Shaun and Matty both saw attempts go over for their respective sides.
Pell was covering a lot of ground in midfield and he advanced on 77 minutes to send a thumping 25-yard drive fizzing past the far post.
The impressive Arnold skilfully worked his way to the by-line but his pull back was fired over by John-Lewis from 10 yards.
Roberts’ mammoth throw was the main threat to the Mariners’ lead, although the defence, marshalled by Pearson stood firm.
And the Shaymen’s rough treatment of McKeown in four minutes of stoppage time meant that there would be no late equaliser for Aspin’s men.
Mariners: McKeown; Magnay (Clay), Thomas, Nsiala, S Pearson; Parslow, Disley, Pell; Arnold, Neilson (Mackreth); John-Lewis. Subs not used: Hannah, Pittman, Brown
Shaymen: Glennon; K Roberts, Ainge, M Roberts, McManus; Marshall, Dyer (M Pearson), Maynard, McGinty (Smith); Peniket, Boden (Schofield). Subs not used: Senior, Bolton