Match report: AFC Telford 1 Grimsby Town 2
GRIMSBY Town fans are getting used to seeing one of their centre-halves on the scoresheet this season – but both hitting the back of the net in the same game is a little unusual.
While Nathan Pond is no stranger to being among the goals, his fellow defender Ian Miller would be the first to admit that he's not exactly prolific.
But it was his strike – only his second ever for Town – that proved to be the winner, as the Mariners picked up another three priceless points on the road at AFC Telford on Saturday.
The former Darlington skipper, brought in to replace the injured Shaun Pearson, partnered Pond at the heart of the Mariners' back four for the game in Shropshire.
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It was the first time this season that Town bosses Rob Scott and Paul Hurst had been forced to break up the pairing of Pearson and Pond; a centre-half partnership that has helped the team earn the best defensive record in the Blue Square Bet Premier so far this season.
Simon Ford, who had been set for a short-term loan deal out of the club on Friday before Pearson's injury, took Miller's place on the bench, in what was an otherwise unchanged squad of 16 that won at Alfreton last Tuesday night.
Town were looking for their second three-point haul in the space of four days but it was the home side that started the brighter. Richard Davies fired a warning shot from 20 yards as the Mariners took a while to get the long journey to Shropshire out of their legs.
And when Telford won a free-kick 25 yards from goal, they nearly made Town pay as Steven Leslie fired low over the wall to bring out the best from goalkeeper James McKeown, who pulled off a fine one-handed save to tip wide.
After the resulting corner was cleared, Town broke and won a free-kick after an untidy tangle between Ross Hannah, Kris Taylor and the nearby linesman, who bore the full brunt of the clash.
Once he'd picked himself up, Joe Colbeck whipped in a delivery and Craig Disley volleyed straight at Ryan Young as Town looked for a foothold in the game.
And they had it when Aswad Thomas' burst down the left flank was brought to an abrupt end by Luke Hubbins, giving Town another set-piece, yards from the by-line.
And, after Ross Hannah had pulled level with him as the club's top scorer in midweek, Pond wrestled that title back when he rose highest to nod home Colbeck's superb delivery at the back post for his fourth of the season.
Town's travelling support were nearly brought to their feet again minutes later when Disley fed Scott Neilson, eager to add to his first goal for Town against Alfreton.
But, after skipping the challenges of two defenders, the 25-year-old, on loan from Crawley, could only lift over from 12 yards after the despairing dive of a third.
The home side were rocking, but that wasted chance proved to be costly as when Hubbins was given too much on the right and his low cross found Steve Jones, who showed his experience to calmly sweep past McKeown and draw The Bucks level.
After what had been an otherwise impressive spell, the equaliser, and perhaps the manner in which it had been conceded, briefly unsettled Town.
But the visitors continued to press and Neilson had the goal in his sights again when his diving header flew just wide at the back post, but the assistant had flagged for offside.
The tricky winger had been by far the Mariners' best player in the first half – his clever turn and drive from 25 yards on the half-hour showed that he was certainly in the mood.
But it was perhaps one of the more unlikely goalscorers that finally put the Mariners ahead again before the break.
Bradley Wood's free-kick fell to Colbeck, whose deflected volley fell to Miller – the defender swung his right boot and lashed the ball into the bottom corner.
Nathan Rooney came on for Davies at half-time as former Spurs midfielder Andy Sinton looked to give his Bucks team some some much needed steel in the middle.
Disley was booked for a challenge in the middle of the park with the hour approaching and, from the resulting free-kick, Leslie fired a volley straight down McKeown's throat as the hosts pushed for another equaliser.
Town worked hard to get out of their half, with Elding, Neilson and Colbeck combining to create a decent opening, but Elding could only fire over after the latter's clever scooped pass into the area.
Town were not keeping the ball as well as they had in the first half and when it found its way to Hubbard, he skipped passed Thomas and whipped in an inviting ball that Jones headed wide, just beyond the imposing figure of Kieron St Aime.
With over 30 minutes gone in what was becoming a tense and tight second half, Scott and Hurst brought on Andy Cook for Hannah, who, without seeing much of the ball, had put in a shift for his side.
Minutes later, centre-half Jordan Rose launched a crashing drive from 25 yards that flew just over McKeown's goal. But at the other end, the Mariners were almost gifted a chance when an undercooked back-pass to the keeper nearly opened the door for Elding, but the former Leeds United man couldn't reach it on the stretch.
Elding was replaced by Southwell and Artus was also thrown on in place of the tiring Neilson as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes.
But as the fourth official signalled for four minutes of stoppage time, Telford had their best chance to deny Town three points.
Miller misjudged a header and the ball ran through to second-half sub James Spray, but, to the relief of all connected with Town, he could only lift onto the roof of the net.
It was to be the last meaningful action of a game that the Mariners had shown character to see out.
When it finally came, referee Kavanagh's full-time whistle was greeted by the away fans as emphatically as either of their centre-halves' goals. It was a great three points to take back to North East Lincolnshire, and the travelling black and white army knew it.
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