Grimsby Town 2 Tamworth 0: Mariners back on top after win
IT MAY not have been the first time that "We are top of the league" has rung around Blundell Park this season – but Town fans will never tire of singing it.
After slipping off top spot last weekend, Grimsby Town proved that they could be in it for the long haul this season as they bounced back to the Blue Square Bet Premier summit with a 2-0 win over Tamworth.
Some may have questioned if Town's previous stint as league leaders was going to be a flash in the pan; a short-lived peak in a season that would eventually see them slip out of contention at the very top.
But Town underlined their credentials with an unfussy and relatively routine victory thanks to goals from skipper Craig Disley and Ross Hannah, who bagged his eighth of the season to warm the home crowd on a bitterly cold afternoon at Blundell Park.
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Joint bosses Rob Scott and Paul Hurst made one change to the side that drew at Ebbsfleet last Saturday with Scott Neilson returning from injury to replace Dayle Southwell, who dropped to the bench.
Tamworth included two former Mariners in their squad with Tommy Wright starting up top alongside the dangerous Adam Cunnington and Peter Till among their substitutes.
After a quiet opening to the game, the visitors threatened first when Wright got past Shaun Pearson and found the unmarked Marcus Kelly, but Sam Hatton got back well to block his effort from just inside the area.
The Mariners fashioned a chance of their own minutes later when Aswad Thomas' superb cross from the left just evaded Hannah, and seconds later, the full-back's 20-yard shot deflected over for the hosts' first corner.
But when Hannah's effort was hurriedly cleared behind after a well-worked set piece, the Mariners won another corner – and this time, they took full advantage.
Neilson whipped in an inch-perfect delivery to find Disley unmarked at the near post, who nodded past James Severn to break the deadlock with less than ten minutes gone.
The early goal lifted the Mariners and they worked the ball forward again seconds later, with Andy Cook and Hannah combining to find Marcus Marshall on the edge of the area who took the shot early but dragged wide.
But when Town were forced to concede a corner on 18 minutes, James McKeown punched unconvincingly and the Lambs began to enjoy a spell of sustained pressure as the home side laboured to get out of their own half.
However, when Hatton's long ball was flicked through to Hannah at the other end, the lively frontman looked to be manhandled in the box by Tom Marshall – but referee Ford was unmoved and waved away the penalty appeals.
Meanwhile Cook, who had started the game well, nearly got the goal his early showing had deserved on the half-hour when he skipped past his marker to rifle a drive that cannoned off Severn's upright.
Town were well on top, but survived a penalty shout when Shaun Pearson blocked Wright's ambitious overhead kick inside the area.
Tamworth made unconvincing appeals for handball, and in truth, Town would have felt hard done by had it been given.
At the other end, the hosts could have doubled their advantage before half time, but Cook could only flash his header across goal from Marshall's delicate cross, while two minutes later, Hannah cut in from the right hand-side and fired low at Severn, who gathered easily minutes before the two sides were taken in at the break.
The second half got off to a controversial start when Cook looked to be pulled down after being set through on goal, and then in the aftermath, with Severn out of position, Hannah was crudely hacked down on the edge of the area as he looked to take advantage.
Hatton hammered the resulting free-kick at the wall, but Town were not to be denied.
Seconds later, Cook nodded down a driven pass into the path of Marshall who in turn slid in Hannah on the edge of the box. The man on loan from Bradford made no mistake and side-footed unerringly into the roof of the net – 'Sign him up!' pleaded all inside the Pontoon Stand.
Shortly after the restart, Marshall's impudent flick then set Disley through on the right flank, but his low cross was cleared, while, minutes later, Cook turned and volleyed over, and then Hannah was flagged offside as he raced through as Town pushed for a third.
But Blundell Park was sent into stunned silence just after the hour mark when Ford awarded a penalty decision that mystified all but the man in the middle.
McKeown came out to claim a corner and looked to be fouled himself but, unbelievably, Ford pointed to the spot and Adam Cunnington stepped up.
However, the young stopper preserved the Mariners' clean sheet with a superb one-handed save down to his left to keep out the spot kick.
Cunnington wasted another a good chance to pull one back minutes later when he headed over, and at the other end, Cook's speculative 30-yarder flew high and wide as the clock ticked down towards full-time.
It had been an excellent performance for the North Easterner, but he couldn't cap it with a goal.
But in the end, the Mariners didn't need it. The win – Town's seventh at home this season – sees them as league leaders by one point going into next weekend's FA Trophy Second Round tie with Havant & Waterlooville, and sets things up nicely for the league visit of Wrexham the following Friday.
Replay our live coverage of the game below: