The Hatters suffered their first defeat of the month against Grimsby at Edgeley Park, and had to see out the latter stages of the contest with 10 men after Callum Camps was dismissed.
They conceded twice within seven first-half minutes, before pulling a goal back shortly before the interval through captain Paddy Madden. But no further County goals were forthcoming – while Camps’ 72nd-minute dismissal saw him become the fifth Hatter to receive his marching orders in the current season – before Grimsby completed the scoring deep into added time.
Although the heavens had opened just over an hour before kick-off, heavy rain and leaden sky gave way to hazy sunshine and more benign cloud before County took to the field, showing just one change from the starting line-up at Bradford City a week earlier – with Chris Hussey replacing Calum MacDonald, who was named among the substitutes.
Some drizzle returned, and close to a dozen minutes were on the clock, when the afternoon’s first shot was fired. It came from the Hatters after Will Collar crossed from the right by-line to Kyle Wootoon – but the striker’s first-time effort was caught by visiting goalkeeper Max Crocombe.
The visitors, who had accompanied County back to the Football League following their success in the National League play-offs over late May and early June, fashioned their inaugural opportunity shortly afterwards – with Brendan Kiernan sending an attempt beyond the right post. And following that, an Anthony Glennon free-kick from 25 yards out was deflected behind by the home wall.
The game was opening up, as a flick from Wootton played Antoni Sarcevic was played through on goal – only to see his effort well saved by Crocombe – and the end-to-end fare continued courtesy of Kiernan, who curled a shot narrowly over the Cheadle End crossbar.
Just after the first half’s mid-point, Grimsby took the lead – after Harry Clifton intercepted the ball, and fed Otis Khan on the left, and finished the move by tapping in at the far post after Khan’s shot had been parried by Vit Jaros.
The County ‘keeper saved his side from a second five minutes later, when holding on to a point-blank snap-shot by Clifton. But, on the half-hour, a close copy of the visitors’ first goal was recreated to double their advantage – with Khan’s delivery from the left being palmed high by Jaros and landing at the feet of Gavin Holohan, who slotted inside the far upright from close range.
The Hatters introduced Ollie Crankshaw to pep up the attack with nine minutes of the half remaining – and five minutes before the break, they halved the deficit after a low shot from Collar was spilled by Crocombe, and Madden reacted first to stab home for his third goal in as many games.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Madden, 40), Grimsby 2 (Clifton, 23; Holohan, 30).
Both goalkeepers were tested within five minutes of the resumption – as, first, Jaros kept out Clifton, who had been played through by Kiernan, before Crocombe brilliantly punched away a goal-bound shot by Myles Hippolyte following good work from Collar and Crankshaw on the right.
Hippolyte tried his luck again just after the hour-mark with an angled shot from the left that fizzed past the far post. And Crankshaw, a couple of minutes later, was wide of the opposite upright after letting fly from distance with a dipping effort.
The Hatters continued to press for an equaliser – with Crankshaw going close at the right side of goal, after being fed by Madden, and Sarcevic seeing a well-struck shot smothered by Crocombe – but their cause was to suffer 18 minutes from time, when Camps was shown his straight red for a foul on Kieran Green.
The visitors seized their new-found numerical advantage with an attack down the right that saw Michee Efete’s cross find Clifton, but the scorer of the opening goal headed wide from six yards. And in the course of five minutes added on, skipper Luke Waterfall nodded narrowly over, before substitute Alex Hunt latched on to Glennon’s low cross from the right and fired past Jaros for a late third goal.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Madden, 40), Grimsby 3 (Clifton, 23; Holohan, 30; Hunt, 90 + 4).
Team (4-2-2-2): Jaros; Collar, Horsfall, R. Johnson, Hussey (MacDonald, 64); Camps, Croasdale (Crankshaw, 36); Sarcevic, Hippolyte (Jennings, 88); Wootton, Madden (Capt.).
Unused Subs: Hinchliffe, Wright, Palmer, Evans.
Sent Off: Camps.
Man of the Match: Madden.
Attendance: 9,464 (1,295 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.