SUBSTITUTE Ross Hannah stepped off the bench and out of the cold to secure an important 2-0 victory for Grimsby Town in their Vanarama Conference clash at a freezing Nuneaton.
The former Bradford man has seen his chances in the Mariners’ squad become increasingly slim in recent weeks but he was back to his best to swivel and fire home Toto Nsiala’s knockdown, the vital second goal for the visitors in this league fixture.
Mariners’ boss Paul Hurst was denied of leading scorer Lenell John-Lewis’ services after the big striker was concussed in the FA Trophy defeat at Gateshead – Jon-Paul Pittman coming into replace him.
A further change for the Mariners saw Jack Mackreth restored to the starting XI in place of fellow midweek goalscorer Paddy McLaughlin and Danny Parslow stepping in for youngster Paul Walker at right back.
It was the visitors who settled quickest in the opening stages though, causing the Mariners several problems from set pieces through the aerial prowess of front pair Andy Brown and Rob Oglesby.
Visiting stopper James McKeown kept the scores level with an excellent save just before the half hour. Oglesby did well to spring the offside trap but the Mariners’ custodian was quick to narrow the angle and save with his legs.
It took Town until five minutes before the break to register their first real effort on goal but they were desperately unlucky not to take the lead with it. Pittman turned his man inside-out on the left side of the box before seeing his curling effort cannon back off the crossbar.
Hurst’s side started the second period much better and it was no surprise to see them take the lead on 54 minutes.
Mansfield loanee Ollie Palmer turned and fired in a 20-yard effort that struck the inside of the post. The ball fell for Nathan Arnold, who kept his head to thread an opening but he saw Christian Dibble pull off a fine save. Thankfully for the Mariners it dropped kindly for Pittman to slot home from close range.
It was all Town now and Palmer tested Dibble with another effort from distance before Shaun Pearson flashed a header just wide of the target from an Arnold corner.
Pittman was forced off through a hamstring injury to be replaced by Hannah and then McLaughlin came on for Arnold.
The Mariners continued to dominate but they needed a second goal to make sure of the three points and it came seven minutes from time.
Nsiala rose highest to meet a McLaughlin corner and the ball dropped at the feet of Hannah, who turned on a sixpence to fend off his marker and smash home from inside the six-yard box.
Hurst could now afford to give New Zealander Hamish Watson a brief run-out in place of Palmer and his side nearly added a third through McLaughlin in injury time.
Boro: Dibble; Smith, Streete (Cowan), Dean, Franklin; Mafuta, Aaron Brown, Fowler (Nardiello), Sodje; Ogleby, Andy Brown. Subs not used: Charles, A Walker, Quinn.
Mariners: McKeown; Parslow, Nsiala, Pearson, Magnay; Mackreth, Disley, Clay, Arnold (McLaughlin); Pittman (Hannah), Palmer (Watson). Subs not used: Bignot, P Walker.