Match Report: Nuneaton Town 1 Grimsby Town 0
GRIMSBY Town crashed to their fourth successive defeat at struggling Nuneaton – and maybe kissed goodbye to their automatic promotion hopes at the same time.
A toothless display in Warwickshire was no reward for the 266 Mariners fans who made the trip, with Andrew Brown's first-half tap-in proving the difference.
But, in all honestly, the hosts were good value for their victory – and could have won by more.
With Wembley looming on Sunday, maybe there were a few clues about the FA Trophy final line-up.
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Skipper Craig Disley recovered from his hamstring injury in time to join Tom Naylor in the centre of midfield.
Centre-half Shaun Pearson was another doubt for the clash at the Triton Showers Community Arena, but shook off his hip problem in time to start.
And it was a completely new front line, with Ross Hannah and Lenell John-Lewis stepping in for Andy Cook and Richard Brodie.
The other intriguing change saw Aswad Thomas drop to the bench, with Bradley Wood beginning the encounter at left-back.
After the travelling fans from North East Lincolnshire impeccably observed a minute's silence for former Nuneaton goalkeeper Arthur Barber, the game kicked-off.
And it was the hosts who forced the first effort on goal when a ball into the Town box wasn't dealt with and Wesley York was given time to test James McKeown with the outside of his right foot.
But – other than an Ian Miller flick-on which was gathered by Lee Burge in the home goal and a wasted Town corner – that was it for an uninspiring opening 15 minutes.
It was far from dull within two minutes, though, as York beat Bradley Wood with ease on the right, charged into the box and squared perfectly for Brown to tap home from five yards out.
It was a moment of real quality from the hosts, and the quickfire York in particular, and for the third game in a row the Mariners were behind.
The game was in its 20th minute when Brown's striker partner Louis Moult found space on the right and looked to chip McKeown from 25 yards, although his clever effort drifted over.
McKeown then had to grab the ball above his head after John-Lewis had deflected another cross into the visiting box on goal.
We hadn't completed 26 minutes before the home side had created another excellent opportunity.
McKeown came for a long ball forward but found himself in no-man's land as Brown won the header, and when the ball eventually fell to James Armson, Town were thankful that Shaun Pearson was on the line to clear away.
Hannah powered a low drive narrowly wide at the other end, before Moult tested McKeown with a stunning 20-yard effort from a tight angle.
On the half hour mark, Nuneaton had managed five shots on target, Town none.
The Mariners had been poor, but there was hope when Jamie Devitt won a free-kick on the edge of the home box in the 34th minute – with Armson receiving the first yellow card – and Sam Hatton bent a shot off the wall and over.
Pearson met the resulting corner at the far post but couldn't direct his effort on target.
The centre-half was then turned superbly by Moult on the edge of his own area before the Nuneaton striker's powerful drive was flicked wide by Miller's boot.
That man Moult infuriated the Mariners fans with two dives that would have made Tom Daley proud before the referee ended the half.
Town emerged for the second period early, with Marcus Marshall replacing Devitt, and the winger made an encouraging start as the away side aimed to fight back.
The Mariners enjoyed a lively spell in their opponent's half – probably for the first time all night.
However, it was again Nuneaton who went close next as Armson fed Brown and the forward sliced his left-foot shot wide from 15 yards out.
Sixty minutes had elapsed and the Mariners were still searching for a shot on target, while at the other end Moult forced McKeown into action once again with an instant volley from 25 yards.
Town bosses Rob Scott and Paul Hurst rang the changes, with Cook replacing Hannah before Thomas also entered the fray at the expense of Wood, who had struggled to contain York.
But as the clash headed into the final 20 minutes, the visitors looked no closer to forcing an equaliser.
In fact, but for a crucial last-ditch header from Ian Miller in the six-yard, Nuneaton could have doubled their lead.
It was an awful second half in truth, with the hosts settling for their one-goal advantage, and Town unable to force any chances of note.
And as the minutes were ticking away, so were the Mariners' lingering hopes of achieving automatic promotion.
It was only deep into the three minutes of injury time that Town finally threatened to pull level, as Disley wasn't quite tall enough to flick a close range header on target.
From a debatable corner, Pearson and McKeown – yes goalkeeper McKeown – then had shots blocked, and moments later John-Lewis fired just wide.
But that was it – and attentions turn to Wembley as the Mariners look to end their woeful run of results and bring some much-needed cheer.
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