Lincoln City 1 Grimsby Town 4: Festive joy for the Mariners
AS late Christmas presents go, it was a perfect one for Mariners fans.
Those who were lucky enough to get their hands on a ticket for the Boxing Day derby with Lincoln City saw their side put in a professional performance and run out convincing winners thanks to Andy Cook, an own goal, Craig Disley and Joe Colbeck.
Town bosses Paul Hurst and Rob Scott opted to stick with the same back four from the win against Wrexham, with Ian Miller keeping his place at centre-half at the expense of Shaun Pearson, who was named on the bench.
Colbeck returned from suspension to take the place of the departed Scott Neilson, while Greg Pearson came in for Ross Hannah, who has returned to parent club Bradford after his successful loan spell with the Mariners.
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The derby sparked into life with little over four minutes on the clock when Marcus Marshall felt the full force of a robust challenge from Andrew Boyce before seconds later, with the ball running out of play, Vadaine Oliver scythed through Aswad Thomas near to the corner flag, leaving both players flat out on the turf.
Oliver became the first to go into the referee's book with less than seven minutes on the clock. Had it been later in the game, he could have easily have been sent off.
Amid the early furore little football had actually been played, with neither side settling into the occasion.
Marshall threatened to make a burst on the left but that was brought down by Dan Gray. But when the resulting free-kick was cleared, Alan Power struck a sweet cross-field ball to find Jamie Taylor. He looked to find strike-partner Oliver with the far post, but the rangy forward couldn't capitalise.
The Imps had looked the more likely to break the deadlock but, after a long ball forward from Colbeck, Cook got up well and nodded just wide of Paul Farman's goal.
Good work from Niven allowed the Scot to slide in Colbeck on the right of the box, and the wingers' low effort was put behind for a corner. Marshall drilled the corner low and wide of the crowd in the six-yard box before Colbeck struck a half volley wide.
At the other end, James McKeown had to rush out to deny a chance for Nicolau on the half-hour mark.
Minutes later, Cook was forced to hack off the line as the Imps
responded and began to take the game to Town.
But with just under ten minutes to go before the break, the visitors got the breakthrough.
A break down the right allowed Colbeck to whip in a cross and when Farman fumbled, the ball fell to Cook. He took a touch to steady himself and then volleyed into the top corner before sprinting over to celebrate with the travelling Mariners fans.
The table-toppers hadn't been at their best, but they doubled their advantaged four minutes before the break.
Tireless work from Disley saw the skipper steal the ball from Power on the edge of the box and find Colbeck, who looked to find Cook at the far post – but Boyce hung out a leg and the ball deflected of him into the bottom corner.
Lincoln almost halved the deficit just before the break when a mix-up between Miller and Hatton allowed Taylor to sneak in at the back post.
Taylor clipped a ball to the back post and Gary Mills lifted an effort that struck McKeown's bar.
It was the closest the hosts had come to getting on the scoresheet and it turned out to be the last meaningful action of a profitable, if not dominant, first half for the Mariners.
Lincoln came out the quickest after the break and they thought they had got back into the game with little more than five minutes gone.
Above: Joe Colbeck gives his reaction after the game
Gray's throw near to the corner flag flew all the way into Town's net but McKeown had been impeded in claiming the ball, and the referee blew for a foul.
But the home side continued to press, through Sheridan and Power, as the Imps enjoyed their best spell of the game.
They were given the chance to profit from it when another Gray throw looked to hit Cook's arm in the box and Bankes pointed to the spot.
Power stepped up and sent McKeown the wrong way to bring the Imps back into the game as the home crowd found their voice.
But Town soon regained their two-goal advantage when good link-up play between Pearson, Cook and Thomas saw Niven find Disley in the box with a perfectly weighted cross. The skipper hooked the ball back from the by-line and Colbeck nodded back to Cook.
The young frontman got up well but saw his header crash off the bar and it looked as though the chance had gone.
But the ball eventually fell to Disley, whose scissor-kick crashed in off the bar to give the Mariners a goal that, in truth, came against the run of play.
Town nearly had another on 64 minutes when Disley fed Pearson in the box and the frontman fired a shot that Farman could only parry onto a team-mate, with the ball deflecting out for a corner.
That set piece, however, did lead to Town grabbing their fourth of the game.
Above: Mariners fans applaud the team off the field
Inexplicably, Farman ran forward to claim Colbeck's corner but allowed it to loop over his head and into his net at the unguarded far post, leaving him red-faced and the travelling fans delighted.
Two minutes later, Town showed just why you put a man on the post from a corner when, at the other end, Thomas hacked off the line from a Boyce header.
At the other end, Town could have made it five when Colbeck burst down the right and found Pearson at the back-post – his near-post header bounced back off the face of the post.
Lincoln could have doubled their tally for the afternoon when a downward header run across the face of the goal found Taylor, but the Imps' top-scorer could only find the woodwork.
Substitute Michael Rankine headed over at one end before, at the other, McKeown pulled off a superb save down at his near post to keep out an Oliver header.
Another substitute, Dayle Southwell, could have rounded it off – but Marshall's centre to him six yards out was too strong.
Those flurries of action brought an end an afternoon that saw the Mariners make it six points from six so far from their festive programme – they'll be looking to make it nine from nine when they travel to Mansfield on Saturday.
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