Match report: Grimsby Town 3 Gateshead 0
THREE goals, a clean sheet and another priceless three points – Grimsby Town's promotion charge is officially up and running.
Goals from Derek Niven, Nathan Pond and Ross Hannah gave the Mariners a comfortable victory over their opponents from the North East.
Town were back at Blundell Park just four days after their impressive 4-1 victory over Luton – and joint bosses Rob Scott and Paul Hurst opted to go with the same starting XI for the visit of the Tynesiders.
New boys Scott Neilson and Hannah – so impressive on their debuts – had another opportunity to show their worth.
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Striker Anthony Elding continued on the home bench despite putting in a written transfer request after the previous clash.
There was a familiar face in the visitors' starting line-up, with former Mariner Micky Cummins lining up in a three-man midfield.
Ian Bogie's men, who had lost three of their previous four games, started well, and both James McKeown and Shaun Pearson had to be on their toes early on to cut out the danger.
The game was ten minutes old before Town showed any attacking threat – breaking at pace from Gateshead's opening corner to earn their first within seconds.
And it was from that initial set piece that the Mariners took the lead in the 13th minute.
Pond found himself on the end of Joe Colbeck's centre and, after he smashed the ball off the bar from ten yards, Niven followed up to notch his first Town goal.
In truth, it was probably against the run of play but the home fans couldn't have cared less.
Josh Gillies tested McKeown from 25 yards as the away side looked to bounce straight back, but any thoughts of that were extinguished moments later.
Aswad Thomas earned a free-kick deep in Gateshead territory and Colbeck once again caused mayhem with his delivery as Pond stormed in at the far post to bundle the cross home.
Two shots on target and two goals – who said the Mariners aren't clinical enough?
Paddy Boyle fired a free-kick into the Town wall from 20 yards, but the hosts were brimming with confidence and sensing another big home win.
As the game passed the halfway mark the visitors were firmly camped on the edge of their own box, and Craig Disley bent a left-footer narrowly wide from 25 yards as the pressure increased.
Colbeck was whipping crosses in from the right, seemingly at will, while Hannah was stretching the Gateshead defence with some clever runs into the channels.
However, unlike Friday night, there was to be no third Town goal before the break – Niven's yellow card for a 'robust' challenge and Gillies' dipping free-kick from 30 yards the only action worthy of a mention.
It was a quiet start to the second period until a long throw from Town flicked off a Gateshead 'heed' and cannoned against keeper Adam Bartlett's crossbar.
Disley tried his luck again shortly after, but Bartlett was equal to his effort from 25 yards out.
However, a warning shot came for the Mariners in the 56th minute when the dangerous Ryan Donaldson was inches from connecting with a superb low cross from the visitors' left flank.
It was proving to be an open second half – probably too much so for Town bosses Scott and Hurst. And Colbeck had to show his defensive qualities to thwart another attack from the Tynesiders.
Seconds later, Bradley Wood burst out of the hosts' defence and charged the length of the pitch before his excellent centre was volleyed over by Neilson.
Andy Cook warmed Bartlett's palms with a 20-yard piledriver, and Disley curled another effort from the edge of the penalty box narrowly over as Town lifted the tempo again.
Hannah then dragged a shot wide as the clash moved towards the final 20 minutes.
The hosts sensed their opportunity to end the contest with a knockout blow, and it was that man Hannah who provided it.
Neilson cut in off the left flank and fed the Bradford City striker just inside the box – his finish past Bartlett at his near post was just sheer class.
Undeterred, the visitors kept attacking but they suddenly lacked their earlier conviction and the Mariners were cruising to their fifth victory of the campaign.
Jamie Chandler became the first away player into the referee's notebook for a late lunge on Disley.
Hannah and Cook trotted off to a standing ovation, as Elding and Dayle Southwell entered the action with ten minutes remaining.
Frankie Artus joined them in the closing stages as Niven took a well-earned rest.
But other than that the final moments were a non-event. The Mariners had already put the game to bed and shown their promotion credentials again.
The big test comes on Saturday with a trip to Wales to pit their wits against fellow title challengers and league leaders Newport County – another victory and Mariners fans can really begin to dream.
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