By Gerry PrewettIt seems appropriate that the Vanarama Play Off Final will be contested by two teams who clashed on the opening day of the season and fought out a 0-0 draw. For Rovers fans who thought the Conference was going to be a walk in the park, it was the first of several eye openers.
In a first half of few chances, Rovers came closest to opening the scoring but Mark McChrystal failed to convert a corner at the far post.
After the break, the game opened up and the Mariners had their best chance to break the deadlock through Lenell John-Lewis but he could not find the net when the ball fell to him after an effort from Craig Disley was blocked on the line.
Town then entertained Nuneaton Town at home and again played out a 0-0 draw, The following Saturday Dover made the trip up to Cleethorpes. Patrick McLaughlin scored the Mariners’ first goal of the season with 16 minutes to go but the Kent team hit back through midfielder Matt Lock. Town had a chance to reclaim their lead through Scott Brown but in the end, they were lucky to escape with a point when substitute Chris Nannetti saw a stoppage time penalty saved by James McKeown.
After 3 draws from their opening three games, two of which were at home, Grimsby next faced a trip to fancied Gateshead. The Mariners were gifted the perfect start when defender Craig Baxter’s own goal put them ahead with just six minutes on the clock.
The returning Scott Neilson doubled Grimsby’s lead, before Lenell John-Lewis’ first goal of the season came three minutes before the interval to make it 3-0. Neilson made it four within a minute of the restart, before Marcus Maddison pulled one back for the home side.
Gateshead looked for a second goal but substitute Craig Disley made it 5-1 in the closing stages and John-Lewis' second of the game came in added time to complete the scoring and go a long way towards erasing the memories of last season’s painful play-off defeat in the north-east.
After that moral boosting victory the Lincolnshire team faced Alfreton at home and they absolutely spanked their Derbyshire rivals. Lenell John-Lewis opened the scoring on 10 minutes. Just after the half hour mark John-Lewis’ header came back off the post and hit visiting keeper Cameron Dawson for an own goal to double the hosts’ advantage.
That lead was stretched further just before half-time, when Jon-Paul Pittman beat the Alfreton offside trap to race clear and make it 3-0.
Craig Clay then capped an impressive display with his first two goals for the club, either side of a spectacular strike from Scott Brown. The first on 46 minutes and the second on 88, Scott Neilson made it 7-0 in the closing stages.
Town’s season was on fire as they headed off to Aldershot in high spirits. After a very even first half saw the teams go in at half-time 0-0. There was relief for the Mariners as two yellow cards had seen striker Lenell John-Lewis take an early shower. Brett Williams struck twice for the home side on 56 and 64 minutes before Scott Neilson pulled one back for Grimsby with a 25-yard strike.
As August drew to a close Town had Played 6 Won 2 Drawn 3 and Lost 1. Goals For 15 Against 4, 9 points.
September opened with a home game to Welling. A first-half strike by Jon-Paul Pittman on 39 minutes put the Mariners ahead before substitute Ross Hannah’s penalty with 19 minutes left ensured that the home team collected maximum points.
Next up on the following Tuesday was a derby away to Lincoln City. The home team took an eighth-minute lead through Jordan Burrow. City should have doubled their lead but a Ben Tomlinson penalty struck the post. The Imps were made to pay when Craig Disley popped up on 43 minutes to level the scores.
The home team regained the lead 12 minutes into the second half when Sean Newton proved to be more accurate from 12 yards than his team mate Tomlinson. However Town fought back and withing two minutes Jon-Paul Pittman restored parity.
With just three minutes to go, Hamza Bencherif bundled the ball home following a corner to send the 5,209 crowd home happy.
The Gulls flew in from Torquay for the next game and snatched all three points from the Mariners. The first goal came on 14 minutes, Dale Tonge combined with striker Duane Ofori-Acheampong, who pushed the ball through for Courtney Richards to squeeze the ball home at the far post.
Torquay doubled their advantage eight minutes before the break. Bowman worked an opening after Town lost possession in midfield and after he was half-blocked, the ball broke for Luke Young to slide past keeper McKeown from a narrow angle.
Successive defeats had somewhat made the Mariners season come off the tracks and a visit to The Shay to face Halifax. A Paul Marshall free kick on four minutes gave the home team an early lead But Scott Neilson smashed a shot in off the post on the quarter-hour. The game ended 1-1.
The following Saturday Town travelled down to Kidderminster. Barnsley loanee Rhys Oates scored on his debut after coming off the bench with five minutes to go. Brown’s ball from the left reached the teenager who turned and struck a right-footed shot into the net from 20 yards, to give the away team a moral boosting 1-0 win.
One week later and Chester were visitors to Blundell Park. Shaun Pearson’s header gave the hosts a first half lead before Ross Hannah doubled it soon after. Hannah then contrived to see his penalty saved by Worsnop. Substitute Nathan Arnold completed the scoring in added time.
September finished with the visit of the Sandgounders from Southport. Former Mariner Richard Brodie pounced on an uncleared corner on 82 minutes to give the away team all three points.
September’s record for the Mariners was Played 7 Won 3 Drawn 1 and Lost 3. Goals For 9 Against 7, 10 points.
October opened with a trip to Dartford. The home side took the lead just after the hour through Tom Bradbrook’s header. With just six minutes on the clock Nathan Collier was sent off for the challenge that resulted in a penalty, John-Lewis who had been brought down got up to equalise from the spot.
The following Tuesday Town were disappointed to be held 0-0 by Altrincham. The away team were put under a lot of pressure by a Grimsby side which moved the ball well but lacked composure in front of goal. Altrincham were indebted to goalkeeper Stuart Coburn for several excellent saves.
The following weekend the Mariners travelled to the Racecourse Ground to face Wrexham. On 27 minutes a Scott Neilson ball found through to Aswad Thomas, who was brought down by Carrington. Once more Lenell John-Lewis, proved accurate from the spot.
The Humbersiders next game proved to be a Stairway to Devon as the inflicted Torquay United’s first home defeat of the season. Town took the lead through John-Lewis on 38 minutes. The hosts hit back through a Luke Young free kick two minutes before half-time.
Craig Disley restored Town’s lead just the break. Aaron Downes equalised just after the hour but in a real ding-dong game John-Lewis ensured the Mariners were ahead for the third time in the game with 20 minutes left on the clock.
October’s record was Played 4 Won 2 Drawn 1 Lost 1 Goals For 5 Goals Against 3, 7 points
Grimsby once again opened a month with a game against Dartford. Defender Carl Magnay netted from close range after 13 minutes after Nathan Arnold's pinpoint cross, before the winger doubled the home side's lead just before the break.
The in-form Lenell John-Lewis scored from the penalty spot three minutes from time after being brought down, to provide a comfortable 3-0 victory.
A single goal on 66 minutes from the in-form Lenell John-Lewis was enough for the Mariners to secure maximum points at Briantree. A shot from Clay was parried by Hamann and the in form striker was on the spot to slam the ball into the net.
Arnold’s right-wing cross was powered past Matt Glennon four minutes before the break togive Grimsby a vital 1-0 win over FC Halifax Town. It was their fifth league win in a row.
Town’s winning run ended at Altrincham. On 67 minutes Arnold unleashed a 30-yard thunderbolt.
With increasing home pressure a corner was not completely cleared and Scott Leather equalised for the home team.
Things got worse for Town with their next game a 2-0 home defeat by Kidderminster
Early goals in both halves secured the points for the visitors, with Marvin Johnson and Jack Byrne on target.
Marvin Johnson opened the scoring with a little over a minute on the clock, finishing well after a quick break. Kidderminster doubled their advantage four minutes after the restart when Jack Byrne headed home from a corner.
The following Tuesday things got back on track. Craig Disley rose to loop a header into the net on 14 minutes. Lenell John-Lewis doubled the lead on 54 minutes.
Substitute Dean Morgan pulled one back for the visitors with 23 minutes left. John-Lewis scored his second of the game with one minute left to finish off the visitors challenge.
The last game of November saw a trip to Shropshire. The home team took the lead just over half an hour into the game when defender Andy Parry scored from 35 yards. Town hit back through Jack Mackreth three minutes before the hour but they were unable to force a winner against the side at the bottom of the Conference table.
During November the Mariner’s Played 7 Won 4 Drawn 2 Lost 1 Goals For 10 Goals Against 5, 14 points
A hard fought victory over Forest Green opened December for Grimsby. They took the lead through Lenell John-Lewis on 24 minutes. In a battle of attrition
Chris Stokes’ equalised with 63 minutes gone and a 73rd minute Craig Disley volley ensured a 2-1 home win.
On Boxing Day the Mariners became the first team to win at Moss Rose. An early goal from Jack Mackreth on four minutes won the game. John-Lewis won the ball from a long McKeown goal kick and after Arnold’s shot was not held by home keeper Rhys Taylor and Mackreth scored.
In a late December clash with their Lincolnshire rivals, the Mariners took a 21st minute lead from captain Craig Disley. The home fans were stunned on 43 minutes by a goal by Imps midfielder Charlee Adams. To make matters worse Alan Power gave the away team the lead on the stroke of half-time.
As the second half was entering it’s final phase Sean Newton secured all three points for the away team.
The December record was Played 3 Won 2 Drawn 0 Lost 1 Goals For 4 Goals Against 4, 6 points
Town suffered back-to-back home defeats for the first time as they went down 2-1 to Macclesfield Town on New Year’s Day.
The Silkmen took the lead on the half-hour through striker Denny Johnstone. Within seven minutes Jon-Paul Pittman pulled the scores level. With the game looking to be heading towards a draw the Cheshire team took the lead seven minutes from time, when midfielder Dan Whitaker grabbed the winner.
Next up was a game against long standing leaders Barnet and the Bees were swatted. The visitors took the lead on six minutes when John Akinde scored from the penalty spot after being brought down by Toto Nsiala.
Just five minutes later Oliver Palmer pulled the scores leavel and within four minutes they were ahead. Lenell John-Lewis converted the game’s second penalty after he was pushed inside the box. Jack Mackreth made it 3-1 on 52 minutes to give the Mariners a comfortable lead.
A trip to Nuneaton was the next challenge facing Grimsby. The Mariners took the lead on 53 minutes, when a shot by Palmer came back off the post. Arnold’s rebound was blocked by Dible but Jon-Paul Pittman forced the ball into the net and make it 1-0, before being shown the yellow card for celebrating with the Grimsby supporters.
As the game drew to a close a corner was headed on by Nsiala and Ross Hannah was in the right place to flick it into the net from close range and secure the points.
January drew to a close with a visit to Hampshire to face Eastleigh. Ollie Palmer scored the only goal of the game seven minutes before the break. Town held firm to make it 11 away games without defeat.
January’s record was Played 4 Won 3 Drawn 0 Lost 1 Goals For 7 Goals Against 3, 9 points
Town faced their third away trip in a row with a visit to Nailsworth to face Forest Green Rovers.
Elliot Frear gave the home team a 37 minute lead, before Kurtis Guthrie's own goal four minutes later, made the scores 1-1 at half-time. James Norwood scored the winner with just 6 minutes left.
A Tom Lockyer score on 67 minutes was enough to give the Gas an away win when the faced Town in their next game. Mat Taylor had missed a first-half penalty given for a foul by Town keeper James McKeown.
After two consecutive defeats, the Mariners returned to winning ways in spectacular fashion at the Hive as they completed a double over Barnet. Christian Jolley set Town on their way with his first goal for the club midway through the first half.
Barnet came back strongly after the break and substitute Conor Clifford equalised, Craig Disley restored their lead in the last minute and then Jon-Paul Pittman scored a third goal in added time.
Town’s recovery continued with a 1-0 win over cellar dwellers Telford. Gregor Robertson set up Nathan Arnold on 47 minutes to fire his fourth of the season before Lenell John-Lewis curled a shot against the bar for Grimsby.
John-Lewis missed from close range but one goal was enough for the Mariners to record their fifth win in seven games.
Grimsby Town 1- 0 AFC Telford Nathan Arnold 47
Town made it three wins in a row with a victory over Braintree Town at Blundell Park. Craig Disley headed the winner on 47 minutes. After midfielder Chez Isaac was sent off for a second bookable offence, the Mariners saw the game out to move up to third in the Conference table.
In February the Mariners Played 5 Won 3 Drawn 0 Lost 2 Goals For 6 Goals Against 4, 9 points
An away win at Woking gave Town a flying start to March. Craig Disley's attempt on 41 minutes rebounded off the post to Ollie Palmer, who slotted into the top corner to put the visitors ahead.
Jon-Paul Pittman profited from a Disley pass to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. John Goddard's late strike from Scott Rendell's header was not enough to stop the visitors securing three points.
A visit to the inconsistent Chester was next. Ollie Palmer finished well from Jon-Paul Pittman's cross on 21 minutes to give Town the lead. On 67 minutes they went into a 2-0 lead for the second game in a row. Nathan Arnold's effort hit the post and Pittman netted the rebound.
Ben Heneghan pulled on back on 75 minutes before John Rooney's penalty, after Gregor Robertson had fouled Matty Hughes, levelled it up for Steve Burr's men six minutes from time.
Town moved up to third place when they beat play-off rivals Eastleigh. The Mariners’ Ollie Palmer got his fifth goal in seven games as he turned in Nathan Arnold’s cross on 13 minutes. Lenell John-Lewis wrapped up the points as he reacted quickest after Palmer's cross was spilled by Eastleigh goalkeeper Ross Flitney with 12 minutes left.
Eastleigh’s Deon Burton was sent off late on before Jamie Turley headed in a late consolation for the Spitfires.
Once again an early goal proved vital for the Mariners. Lenell John-Lewis gave Grimsby their sixth win in seven games at the expense of Dover. John-Lewis scored his 15th goal of the season at the second attempt after Mitch Walker blocked his initial shot.
Grimsby climbed above Rovers after victory at relegation-threatened Welling. The visitors went ahead after nine minutes when Ollie Palmer bundled in a cross from Jack Mackreth. Two minutes before the break Arnold swung in a cross and Shaun Pearson rose highest to power in a header at the near post.
The March record for Grimsby was Played 5 Won 4 Drawn 1 Lost 1 Goals For 9 Goals Against 4, 13 points
The Mariners’ opening game of March saw them entertain Gateshead. The Northern team took the lead from Kevin Sainte-Luce on 34 minutes. Jack Mackreth levelled from 20 yards nine minutes into the second half.
Sainte-Luce restored the Heed’s lead on 73 minutes. Things got worse for the Mariners when Valentin Gjokaj was then dismissed for a second yellow card. Then right on full time Craig Disley headed in Jack Mackreth's cross to earn a point
Grimsby’s next game saw them visit Derbyshire for a match against struggling Alfreton Town. Debutant Josh Gowling broke the deadlock midway through the second half, firing Jack Mackreth's cross into the bottom corner.
Mackreth then hit a post with an angled shot from the edge of the area and Alfreton striker Karl Hawley steered a close-range effort onto the crossbar. Lenell John-Lewis headed home Craig Clay's cross on 87 minutes to secure the points.
Wrexham’s Joe Clarke effectively ended Grimsby's automatic promotion hopes as his first-half goal saw Wrexham hand the Mariners their first loss in 11 league matches.
Clarke hit home a left-foot shot from 20 yards.
Grimsby substitute Jon-Paul Pittman almost scored a late equaliser but his header flashed just wide of the post.
Town’s final away game of the season saw them visit Southport. Jordan Chapell broke the deadlock for Grimsby with a low finish from 12 yards after a bright start from the visitors. Midfielder Scott Brown played the ball across the penalty area from the left and Chapell steered in a low finish from 12 yards.
Louis Almond levelled with an angled 25-yard shot into the bottom corner right after half-time. Nine minutes later Luke Foster crashed home a right-footed volley from inside the penalty area to give the home team the lead.
With just five minutes remaining Shaun Pearson headed home a cross to give the visitors a share of the points.
Town finished their season wiuth a comfortable 3-1 win over Aldershot. Ross Hannah scored two goals in three minutes. Hannah latched on to Craig Disley's through ball and lifted the ball over Phil Smith to put the Mariners ahead.
He then lobbed Smith for his second shortly after, and Jon-Paul Pittman extended the lead to three by firing in from 12 yards out after the break. Jordan Roberts's powerful free-kick cut the deficit late on.
The April League Record read Played 5 Won 2 Drew 2 Lost 1 Goals For 10 Goals Against 6