FA Cup match report: Grimsby Town 2 Kidderminster Harriers 4
A CRAZIER opening 20 minutes you would struggle to find – at any level of football.
And when the dust settled on that astonishing start at Blundell Park on Saturday, Grimsby Town were well on their way to an ignominious FA Cup exit.
As Kidderminster's Anthony Malbon, Chey Dunkley and Lee Vaughan blasted the Blue Square Bet Premier strugglers into a three-goal lead, the Mariners were still sitting in the Blundell Park dressing room.
Not literally, of course. But they may as well have been, such was the ineptitude of their defending.
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And despite a heartening effort at a comeback – with goals before half-time from Derek Niven and Scott Neilson – the damage had been well and truly done.
After picking up a training ground ankle injury on Friday, Aswad Thomas sat out the clash – Sam Hatton coming in at right-back and Bradley Wood switching to the left-hand side.
Skipper Craig Disley was 'rested' on the bench, with Andi Thanoj getting his opportunity in the centre of the Mariners midfield.
And with striker Ross Hannah refused permission to play, it was young Dayle Southwell who took his place up front ahead of Andy Cook.
Centre-half Shaun Pearson was again ruled out through injury, meaning Ian Miller retained his place at the back.
A seven-man bench – as permitted in the FA Cup – also included Youth team player Josh Morrall.
The encounter was still in its first minute when Town forced the first chance of the game.
Niven's ball into Anthony Elding was flicked cleverly into the path of Southwell just inside the box. And the youngster should have done better with his side-footed effort which was easily held by Nathan Vaughan in the visiting goal.
Malbon's powerful volley was charged down by Hatton at the other end, but, undeterred, it was the same man who put the Harriers ahead in the ninth minute.
A corner from the right – the first of the afternoon – found its way to the frontman beyond the far post and he guided the ball home despite Nathan Pond's best efforts on the line.
Nathan Blissett could have doubled that advantage a minute later, but dragged his shot wide 15 yards out. The dangerous Malbon then cut inside Wood and saw his powerful shot deflected over for a corner.
But moments later it was 2-0 when another corner, this time from the left, was headed home at the far post by Dunkley.
Worse was to come for the Mariners when Malbon was the victim of a lunging challenge from Pond in the box and referee Darren Handley didn't hesitate in pointing to the spot.
Lee Vaughan guided the spot-kick into the bottom right corner past James McKeown to give Kidderminster a three-goal lead after just 18 minutes.
The Mariners and their supporters were stunned and needed something to steady their frayed nerves.
And Niven delivered it – lashing a superb right-foot finish home from the best part of 20 yards to reduce the arrears.
That brought an end to one of the strangest opening 20 minutes of football you could ever wish to see.
Captain Disley made his entry moments later, with Southwell unfortunate to make way as Rob Scott and Paul Hurst urgently looked to shore things up defensively.
Lee Vaughan smashed an effort over from 25 yards in front of the Pontoon, before Scott Neilson beat his marker at least two or three times before guiding a low cross virtually along the Harriers' goal-line.
The action kept coming – Dunkley's chest back to his keeper was short and Elding went in for a 50-50 with Nathan Vaughan which the stopper just about won.
The players couldn't maintain the fast pace, and so it proved as a lull finally arrived.
Frankie Artus arrived in the 39th minute to replace Disley who lasted just 18 minutes before a foot injury forced him off.
And Artus kept Nathan Vaughan honest with a low drive from 25 yards before Town pulled another goal back on the brink of half-time.
The hosts' first corner was missed by Nathan Vaughan and, from the ensuring mayhem in the Harriers' box, the ball dropped for Neilson 10 yards out. The on-loan man's shot found its way over the line via a defender and the post as the Mariners somehow ended the half just a goal behind.
Town started the second half far stronger than the first – but how could they not?
Thanoj bent a shot narrowly wide from just inside the box as they looked for a quickfire equaliser, and the young midfielder tested Nathan Vaughan with another from range after more good work from Elding
Neilson, now in a free role off the frontman, was everywhere and he almost brought Blundell Park to its feet again with a spectacular overhead kick which nettled on the roof of the Harriers net.
Visiting boss Steve Burr opted for a double substitution on the hour as he looked to stem the tide. But it didn't have the desired effect – Nathan Vaughan having to acrobatically tip over Elding's volley following a Town corner.
Kidderminster continued to offer a threat, though, with an unmarked Malbon unable to control a chance at the far post before Josh Gowling bent a left-footer wide from 20 yards.
James Vincent guided a shot inches past the post with McKeown at full stretch as the visitors looked like they had weathered the storm. Town's keeper then made a superb reflex stop from Lee Vaughan's shot to keep Town in the clash.
Elding was applauded off the pitch as Andy Cook replaced him for the final ten minutes.
Neilson's piledriver from 25 yards somehow arrowed past the post, and in the closing moments Cook's volley from the edge was deflected over the bar.
With James McKeown up for the resulting set-piece, the visitors managed to scramble the ball off their own goal-line – before Johnson broke clear, ran the length of the pitch and smashed the ball into an empty net from a yard to confirm Town's exit.
The Mariners would have faced League One Oldham Athletic at home in the First Round proper but, rather than thinking of what could have been, Scott and Hurst's men can now turn their attentions back to attempting a Football League return themselves.
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