Match report: Braintree Town 2 Grimsby Town 0
GRIMSBY Town’s Amlin Stadium hoodoo returned to haunt them once again as they slipped to a disappointing defeat at the hands of Braintree last night.
On a sobering evening in Essex, former Town trialist Luke Daley struck two goals – either side of half-time – to condemn the Mariners to their first defeat on the road since the 3-2 loss at Hyde in early November.
Rob Scott and Paul Hurst sprang something of a surprise before kick-off by handing Lenell John-Lewis his first start for the Mariners at the expense of Richard Brodie, who dropped to the bench alongside fellow striker Ross Hannah.
Meanwhile, Aswad Thomas featured against his former club in an otherwise unchanged line-up from that which started Saturday’s FA Trophy semi- final first-leg victory over Dartford.
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After a subdued opening five minutes, Braintree skipper Kenny Davis won a free-kick 25-yards out.
Daley swung in a cross that almost stopped dead in James McKeown’s sandy goal-mouth before being cleared to safety by Ian Miller.
With ten minutes gone, Thomas undercooked a back-pass that McKeown could only slice clear on the bobbly surface. From the resulting throw-in, Davis struck a shot from a corner, and when that wasn’t cleared properly, Dan Holman drew a smart save from McKeown.
At the other end, Town nearly went in front in the most fortuitous of circumstances.
Ryan Peters tackled Marshall on half-way, but the ball sprang up and looped towards McDonald in the Braintree goal, who had scrambled back quickly enough to collect on the line.
Both sides were struggling with the heavy pitch, but when John-Lewis won a firm challenge in midfield, he found Marshall, who twisted and turned to create space, but overcooked his far post cross to Colbeck and the chance was gone.
Once again, Town had not been anywhere near their best and, when a cross come over from the left on the 26th minute, Daley was left free on the edge of the area – he cannoned a volley into the pitch that bounced up and flew past McKeown.
After that disappointment, the Mariners soon fashioned a chance to equalise when John-Lewis muscled his way through two challenges, but his effort was charged down and the hosts cleared their lines.
Hatton was then booked just after the half hour as the Mariners’ frustrations began to show.
From the resulting free-kick, Davis looped a header straight at McKeown before, from another set-piece ten minutes before the break, Sean Marks lifted a diving header over the bar after beating Miller to the ball.
But Town were beginning to improve and, when Disley found John-Lewis with a sharp pass, the frontman beat the offside trap and, while his first touch took him wide, he still managed to draw a decent save from McDonald.
John-Lewis then saw another opportunity come and go as the half entered the last five minutes but, after skipping across the edge of the box, he skewed his effort high and wide.
That was before he ended an eventful half when he was shown a yellow for a late challenge on Peters.
Braintree could, and possibly should have doubled their advantage just before half-time, but McKeown just managed to smother Daley’s cross on the line before referee Breakspear took the two sides in.
The Mariners certainly needed an improvement and they were out with renewed vigour after the break – Colbeck broke down the right and flashed in a cross that found its way to Derek Niven on the edge of the area but the Scot could only scuff his shot.
After a tidy passage of play from the hosts, Town broke through Cook and then Colbeck, but when the Yorkshireman tried to return the favour with a cross to the far post, John-Lewis got in front and was adjudged offside.
Town continued to press and won a free-kick on 51 minutes, but Colbeck’s cross wasn’t deep enough and when the ball was worked back in, Marshall skied his volley from the edge of the area.
At the other end, the lively Holman, planted a volley wide from 18 yards.
Colbeck earned the Mariners another corner on 60 minutes as a swirling fog descended on the Amlin Stadium but when it was worked short, Sam Hatton’s cross was clawed away at the far post by McDonald.
Town had been disjointed and a change was needed – Scott and Hurst responded by first bringing on Ross Hannah for Marcus Marshall on 66 minutes, and then Brodie for Cook five minutes later.
At one end, Daley lifted a cross onto McKeown’s bar, while, seconds later, Disley spurned Town’s best chance of an equaliser when, after skipping past the challenge of the last defender, he shaped the ball wide of the left-post with only the keeper to beat.
And Town were made to pay for squandering that chance with 15 minutes to go when Daley swung in a corner, Disley missed his clearance at the near post and the ball dribbled in past McKeown to double the hosts’ advantage.
Town’s stopper produced a fine save to deny Matt Paine minutes later, but could do nothing about Davis’ effort from just inside the area that rattled against the bar.
The visitor’s misery should have been compounded five minutes from the end. But Davis put his free header well-wide while, at the other end, Brodie tried to salvage a late consolation for Town with a dipping volley from 18-yards that McDonald held easily.
Town’s race was run – they had been well-beaten again at the Amlin Stadium as the chants of ‘Top of the league? You’re having a laugh’ rang out from the home fans.
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