Match Report: Grimsby Town 3 Ebbsfleet United 1
GRIMSBY TOWN started and finished their Conference return superbly to notch a crucial home victory last night.
First-half goals from Marcus Marshall and Andy Cook seemed set to put them on the way to a comfortable win.
But Town's wastefulness almost came back to haunt them before Craig Disley fired home another goal of the season contender to wrap up the points late on.
As with Saturday's 0-0 FA Trophy draw at Dartford, the Town bosses opted to make three changes to their starting line-up.
The main upheaval came up front, where Cook and Ross Hannah returned at the expense of Richard Brodie and Lenell John-Lewis.
The squad rotation continued on the flanks where Marshall came in, leaving Joe Colbeck on the bench.
New addition Tom Naylor was another of the Mariners' substitutes, giving Town more potential options in defence and midfield.
The co-managers would have demanded a strong start – and boy did it arrive! And, whether it was luck or pure genius, their three recalled faces were all involved.
Hannah and Cook linked up superbly on the left wing before the latter's excellent low cross was met by Marshall at the far post.
It was a simple finish for the wideman, but he did wonderfully to get in front of his marker and slide in to direct the cross home.
Coincidentally, Marshall also gave the Mariners an early lead in the clash at Ebbsfleet at the start of December – an encounter that ended all square.
We were into the 10th minute when the hosts pressed next. This time, Marshall's clever ball down the line set Hannah away, but the forward's cross was delayed and cut out.
Cook cut open again his head – again – in that attack but was soon back with a 'Terry Butcher-style' bandage wrapped around his forehead.
It was a puzzling first 20 minutes, with no other opportunities for either side, and Ebbsfleet players collapsing injured at regular intervals.
Craig Stone was the first to limp off, with Liam Bellamy jogging on, before Stefan Payne also departed four minutes later, making way for the tricky Lanre Azeez.
Town's first corner arrived in the 27th minute, and shortly after the Mariners could have doubled their advantage. However, Devitt's wicked free-kick from the right narrowly evaded a line of Craig Disley, Shaun Pearson and then Ian Miller with the visitors defence nowhere.
Devitt was involved again in the 35th minute, dancing past two players before squaring the ball for Hannah in the box, although his first-time effort was blocked by Paul Lorraine.
The second 'serious' effort of the game didn't look too far away. And it came seven minutes before the break when Hannah's left-footed cross from the right found its way to Cook at the far post and he bundled the ball home from five yards out.
Whether Town's display merited a two-goal advantage was of little interest to the Blundell Park crowd, who began to sit a bit more comfortably.
Jack Saville was the first player booked after a late challenge on Derek Niven as Liam Daish's men looked for a response before half-time.
And the away side finally recorded an effort on goal – Liam Enver-Marum heading a corner over James McKeown's bar. Enver-Marum then tested the stopper with a deflected drive from distance as a strange half of football drew to a close.
The match should have been dead and buried three minutes after the restart when visiting keeper Preston Edwards dropped a high cross, Pearson volleyed onto the crossbar, and Cook smacked the rebound into the ground and over.
That let-off gave the Fleet some encouragement and Josh Scott zipped a 25-yarder on target to keep McKeown on his toes.
The Mariners spurned another great opportunity in the 56th minute when Cook and Hannah exchanged passes and the former Bradford man squared for Disley in acres of space in the box. The skipper took it first time, but Edwards blocked well and the chance was gone.
Enver-Marum sliced an effort wide of the near post on the hour and Town were beginning to make hard work of what should have been a routine home win. Ebbsfleet were controlling possession and nothing was sticking up front for the Mariners in a scrappy half.
Cook was again wasteful when the hosts did break, turning inside two defenders before firing a tame shot straight at Edwards.
And the Mariners were made to pay in the 74th minute when Enver-Marum turned brilliantly in the Town box and toe-poked an instant finish past McKeown and into the far corner.
The dangerous Enver-Marum then blasted over from 25 yards as the visitors looked for what had seemed such an unlikely comeback.
Cook went on a mazy run before slapping another chance wide, before it was that man, Enver-Marum for the umpteenth time, planting a near post header wide.
But it was all academic four minutes from time when Disley picked up the ball 30 yards from the Ebbsfleet goal.
Without a simple pass on, the captain tried his luck and hammered a sensational right-footed 'humdinger' past Edwards and into the top left-hand corner.
Finally, the Mariners had put the match to bed – after one or two scares – and the points were safe.
McKeown was required to push away an Ashley Carew free-kick in stoppage time, but that was that, and Town had finished off the job in style.
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