Match Report: Grimsby Town 1-3 County

The Hatters headed to the seaside, and enjoyed their afternoon in the sun in Cleethorpes with an impressive performance that saw them triumph over Grimsby, become League Two’s highest scorers thus far, and remain four points clear at the top of the table.

First-half goals from Antoni Sarcevic, Tanto Olaofe and debutant Lewis Cass put them well in charge of proceedings – and although the ‘Mariners’ pulled one back shortly after half-time, it proved no more than a consolation, as County registered a second ‘double’ of the campaign and a first win at Blundell Park for nearly a dozen years.

Morning mist had given way to afternoon sunshine on the North-East Lincolnshire coast, as County took to the field showing three changes from the starting line-up that had faced Harrogate at Edgeley Park a week previously. Cass, on loan from Port Vale, was handed his debut in place of Macauley Southam-Hales, who had sadly been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign. And Ryan Croasdale and Sarcevic both returned, replacing Odin Bailey and skipper Paddy Madden – both of whom were named among the substitutes – with Croasdale also wearing the captain’s armband in Madden’s stead. 

With five minutes on the clock, Croasdale’s skippering counterpart and leading Grimsby scorer, Danny Rose, forced Ben Hinchliffe into a save at point-blank range – only for a flag to be raised for offside. But four minutes later, an error by Hinchliife’s opposite Number One led to a more tangible, and significant, outcome – as Harvey Cartwright’s poor clearance was seized upon by Sarcevic, who slotted home to give County an early lead.  

Five minutes later, the advantage was doubled. A quickly-taken free-kick by Nick Powell, from deep in the Hatters’ half, was lofted to Connor Lemonheigh Evans, who, from the right flank, squared for Olaofe to convert his 17th goal of the season in all competitions.

Olaofe had the ball in Grimsby’s net again within another three minutes, but saw his effort disallowed for offside. And the hosts also had a goal ruled out on the same grounds, with Rose the culprit, just ahead of the 20-minute mark.

As the half-hour approached, Powell grazed the crossbar with a trademark delightful chip, following an Ethan Bristow corner from the right – but, moments later, County had a third goal, with Cass latching on to a looping Sarcevic cross from the right and heading in on his inaugural appearance as a Hatter.

The Hatters’ joy was tempered somewhat four minutes before the break, when Akil Wright picked up an injury and limped off – to be replaced in the back four by Neill Byrne. Either side of that substitution, Abo Eisa fired shots wide of the right post and over the bar – and, by way of the first half’s final touch, another Cass header, from Bristow’s corner, cleared the goal at the other end.

HALF-TIME: Grimsby 0, County 3 (Sarcevic, 9; Olaofe, 14; Cass, 27).

The hosts made a triple-substitution immediately prior to the resumption – with one of the players replaced being County nemesis, Gavan Holohan, who had netted four times in his last half a dozen appearances for Grimsby, or for his previous club Hartlepool, against the Hatters.

Within seven minutes, one of the home replacements made his presence felt – as Charles Vernam unleashed a venomous low shot that Hinchliffe dived to parry, but only as far as Eisa, who thundered home to reduce the arrears.

Grimsby’s greater press following the interval earned five corners before or around the hour-mark – before the Hatters made changes of their own, by bringing on Bailey and Myles Hippolyte. 

County’s first chance of note in the new half saw Olaofe played through by Powell – but the striker’s eventual shot was deflected beyond the right post off Harvey Rodgers. Both Hatters involved in the move were subsequently given a well-earned rest courtesy of a second double-substitution, as Madden and Ibby Touray were introduced with 18 minutes to go.

The scorers were not troubled further – although Lemonheigh Evans, in the closing stages, had an effort deflected behind, before sliding into the goalmouth in anticipation of Bristow’s low cross from the left but just failing to apply a final, decisive touch.

FULL-TIME: Grimsby 1 (Eisa, 52), County 3 (Sarcevic, 9; Olaofe, 14; Cass, 27).

Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Cass, Horsfall, Wright (Byrne, 41), Bristow; Croasdale (Capt.), Camps (Hippolyte, 64); Lemonheigh Evans, Sarcevic (Bailey, 64), Powell (Touray, 72); Olaofe (Madden, 72). 

[Debut for Lewis Cass, with a unique SCAN [Stockport County Appearance Number] of 1467.]

Unused Subs: Smith, Richards.

Booked: Camps, Sarcevic, Cass.

Attendance: 6,732 (879 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.

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