Goals galore as Grimsby Town beat Woking 5-1
THE last of the Bonfire Night fireworks went up over Blundell Park after an afternoon which had seen Grimsby Town put the spark back into their promotion push.
The Mariners ran out convincing 5-1 winners over Woking, thanks to two superb free-kicks from Sam Hatton, allied with goals from Craig Disley, Andi Thanoj, and Andy Cook.
The margin of their victory, combined with results elsewhere, fired Town up to second in the table – three points off leaders Newport and level on points, if not games played, with Forest Green Rovers.
Joint bosses Rob Scott and Paul Hurst made two changes from the side that lost at Hyde, with Thanoj coming in for Niven, the man he replaced after just 30 minutes in Lancashire, while Hatton was in for Bradley Wood, who was left out of the match-day squad.
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Former Town man Dean Sinclair was recalled to a Woking team that also included former Wycombe Wanderers favourite Kevin Betsy and Dave Beasant's son, Sam among the substitutes.
The Last Post rung around a silent Blundell Park during an impeccably observed moment of remembrance ahead of kick-off.
Just as they had in midweek, Town started the match slowly, and soon went behind to an early goal from a familiar face.
After a well-worked Woking move, Sinclair was found free in the area and stroked the ball past James McKeown with less than three minutes on the clock.
Town were rocking and looking nothing like a side that went into the game still with the best defensive record in the league.
However, at the other end, a clever clipped ball over the top from Marcus Marshall, on his home debut, nearly found Disley – but Woking goalkeeper Aaron Howe was alert and came off his line to clear with his head.
Town were threatening again minutes later when Ross Hannah latched onto another through-ball before being hauled down by Mike Cestor, who went into referee Stockbridge's book.
After discussions with Hannah, it was Hatton who lined it up and he hit a sweet drive that flew through the wall and past Howe to get the Mariners back on terms.
Lee Sawyer received a booking on 15 minutes for a late challenge on Hannah as the Mariners were forced into an early sub, with the injured Joe Colbeck replaced by Niven as Town switched to a 4-3-3.
It had been a lively start to the game and the hosts, who had been steadily improving, went ahead when Cook's sublime reverse pass beat Woking's high line and sent Disley through on goal.
And the skipper kept a cool head to take the chance early and side-foot past Howe, before wheeling away to celebrate with the Mariners bench.
The new midfield trio of Niven, Disley and Thanoj was seeing plenty of the ball, helping to string together some tidy passages of play.
Cook was also enjoying his best game in a Town shirt so far this season.
His ball over the top set Marshall free down the left who squared to the waiting Hannah in the box.
The frontman's shot was well kept out by Howe, but Thanoj arrived on the scene to pounce on the loose ball and make it 3-1 with just over a third of the game gone.
At the other end, Woking won their first corner of the game on the stroke of half-time, but when Joe McNerney could only head over, Stockbridge brought a pulsating half to a close.
Town were eager to press home their advantage after the break and they were handed a boost when Sawyer received his second booking of the afternoon after a tangle with Aswad Thomas, leaving Woking to see out the best part of the half with ten men.
Minutes later, Town worked a clever free-kick and Marshall skipped past his marker before finding Shaun Pearson, who lifted his effort onto the roof of the net, while Cook again went close on the hour mark.
Despite being a man down, Woking showed spirit in their response and Town struggled to get hold of the ball for a spell.
Thomas was forced to concede a corner with just over 15 minutes remaining.
But when it was cleared, Town broke through Marshall and the Bury man was crudely body-checked right on the edge of the area.
After Hatton's first, this time, there were no discussions over who should take it. And if his first goal was good, his second of the afternoon was even better.
With a short run up, the full-back struck an unstoppable free-kick that flew into the top right-hand corner.
It was a strike to grace any level of football, let alone the Conference.
Remarkably, he could have made it a hat-trick of free-kicks soon after when he fired yet another set-piece just over.
Marshall would have made it five minutes later had it not been for Howe, who kept out the loan man's low drive after good work from Dayle Southwell on the break.
But Town were in irrepressible mood and, as the clock hit 90 minutes, Cook got the goal his performance had deserved when he fired home from Marshall's half-cleared centre from 12 yards.
The Mariners have bounced back from their disappointment at Hyde, ending a run of three games at Blundell Park without a win.
The fireworks that went up over Blundell Park after the game may not have been for the Mariners just yet – but if they can replicate performances like Saturday's on a consistent basis, there could yet be more at the end of the season.