Grimsby Town’s U18s were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup despite a brave defensive display in their second round clash with Crewe Alexandra at Blundell Park.
The Young Mariners stood up well to the pressure put on them by opposition who play at a higher level of youth football, and they created a good chance to take the lead at the other end seven minutes after the break. But Crewe eventually found a breakthrough as captain Owen Lunt scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game, to seal their passage to round three.
Town lined up with Dec Dennis in goal, behind a defence of Callum Storr, Alex Markham, Henry Moore and Tom Zerboni. Harry Milner, Harry Thorpe, Will Hodgson and Louis Boyd were the midfielders, with Shakeel Brown supporting Cameron Gardner in attack. The substitutes were Brook Dennis, William Mitchell, Charlie Clements, Finley Fletcher, Billy Bradley, Henry Brown and Cameron Walsh.
Grimsby earned their place in the second round with a handsome 4-0 home victory over Walsall, while Crewe needed extra time to overcome Mansfield Town 3-2 and reach this stage of the competition.
The hosts had the first chance of the game on two minutes, with Thorpe hitting a powerful drive from 25 yards which Crewe keeper Jack Flint had to tip over his bar for a corner. The flag-kick was headed wide.
A shot from Ty Webster at the other end took a deflection on its way past the near post but the resulting corner was well dealt with by the home defence.
A promising Town attack came to an end when the offside flag was raised against Gardner, then Zerboni showed good strength to win the ball and start another move which eventually led to an effort from Boyd being blocked.
Dennis got down to make a stop from midfielder Lunt as the visitors started to control possession around the 20-minute mark, then another chance came and went as Callum Agius’ header was blocked by the keeper and rolled to safety.
Agius sent another header over the bar on the half-hour as the away side continued to put pressure on the Town goal, before a free kick from the Crewe right was well defended.
Another opportunity came for Crewe with a free kick in a central position, 25 yards out, and this time, Dennis made a great save, diving full-length to his right to tip Webster’s shot over his bar for a corner.
Town had been forced to defend for long periods but they managed to create an opening of their own on 44 minutes, as Gardner cut inside from the left and worked some space to hit a cross-shot towards the far post, although nobody could apply a vital finishing touch.
One added minute was played at the end of a half where Crewe had asked most of the questions in attack but the Young Mariners had stuck to their task well and so far, had come up with the answers in defence to leave the score goalless at the break.
No changes were made before the restart and an early Crewe free kick was cleared as the visitors started on the front foot.
Despite Crewe being on top though, the best opportunity so far was created by Town on 53 minutes. Milner looked up from the right and pulled the ball back for Gardner but he could only steer it wide of the far post.
A stoppage came for Brown to receive treatment after he went down injured but he was passed fit to continue and after the game resumed, a cross from the Crewe right was headed away by Storr.
Dennis came off his line to punch a free kick clear for a throw-in on 62 minutes and the keeper was called into action again soon afterwards, as he got down to stop a low shot from striker Marquise Martins.
Brook Dennis replaced Hodgson as Town made the first substitution of the evening on 64 minutes.
Thorpe saw a shot blocked two minutes later after good play by Milner on the right as the hosts continued to come into the game as an attacking force. But when the deadlock was broken on 68 minutes, it was Crewe who took the lead. cross-field ball found LUNT on the left and he steered a low finish past Dec Dennis and into the far corner of the net.
Lewis Nolan replaced Samuel Crolla and Rhys Allport came on for Agius as the away side made a double-substitution with 16 minutes to go.
Allport was straight into the action with a pacy run down the left and soon afterwards, he let fly from 20 yards with a shot which was blocked by Markham and looped through to Dec Dennis.
The Town keeper made a good save to deny Matus Holicek as he looked to profit at the far post after a cross-field ball from the right, then Walsh replaced Zerboni and Henry Brown came on for Storr on 77 minutes as the home side made a further two changes.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the game, with Town looking for an opening as they chased an equaliser which would keep their cup hopes alive.
Brook Dennis headed over the bar, before Webster missed an opportunity to seal the result for Crewe at the other end as his shot was deflected wide.
And that proved to be the final chance of the game as the referee’s final whistle brought an end to Town’s bid to cause a cup upset.
The Young Mariners now return to EFL Youth Alliance league action, with an away trip to Bradford City next up.