A thoroughly professional display saw Grimsby Town move safely into the FA Cup First Round Proper as they beat Southern League Premier Division Central side Bromsgrove Sporting.
With the BBC cameras at the Victoria Ground for live national television coverage amid the possibility of a cup upset, the Mariners made sure there would be no shock as they showed an excellent attitude to earn a comfortable 5-0 win.
Seven changes were made to the Grimsby starting XI for the lunchtime trip to the West Midlands following last week’s victory at Woking as manager Paul Hurst opted to rotate his squad.
But those who came into the team shone, with Seb Revan scoring two great goals either side of a David Longe-King header as Town built up a three-goal half-time lead.
From there, they managed the game well and continued to create chances, with Bromsgrove’s Aston Villa loanee goalkeeper Akos Onodi making a string of saves until Lenell John-Lewis made it 4-0 with a late penalty.
Onodi denied John-Lewis from the spot after the Mariners were given a second penalty in the closing stages but Will Bapaga capped a fine personal and team performance as he scored a fifth goal with the last kick of the game.
The changes to the team meant a competitive Mariners debut for goalkeeper Max Crocombe and returns to the line-up for Shaun Pearson, Longe-King, Revan, Giles Coke, Bapaga and John-Lewis.
Crocombe started behind a defence of Ryan Sears, Pearson, Longe-King and Revan, with Ben Fox and Giles Coke sitting behind Erico Sousa, Harry Clifton and Bapaga in midfield as John-Lewis led the line in attack.
With seven substitutes allowed to be named for FA Cup ties, youngsters Edwin Essel and Evan Khouri came onto a a strong bench which also included James McKeown, Max Wright, Ryley Towler, Michee Efete and Alex Hunt, although there were no places in the matchday squad for leading scorers John McAtee and Ryan Taylor.
Bromsgrove came into the game looking to cause one of the major upsets of the fourth qualifying round and bridge a gap of two divisions and more than 50 league places to the Mariners, who were the highest-ranked team at this stage of the competition.
The hosts were also looking to get back to winning ways after a midweek home defeat by Banbury United which left them 11th in their league.
Town were attacking up a steep slope in the first half and they had the first chance of the game when Bapaga pulled the ball back for John-Lewis but the striker could only side-foot wide from near the penalty spot.
A low cross from Bapaga was comfortably stopped by home keeper Onodi soon afterwards, before Bromsgrove’s first attack of note saw Miro Pais send over a cross which was too high for Jourdain Masidi.
Bapaga’s promising start continued when he found himself with an opening inside the penalty area on seven minutes but he opted not to shoot and the home defence recovered.
Sousa cut in from the right but saw an attempted cross blocked, before another cross from the right was caught by the keeper as the Mariners dominated the early stages of the game.
Bapaga fired at Onodi at the end of a fine attacking move, before Town got the breakthrough which their efforts had deserved on 18 minutes. Again, Bapaga was at the centre of things as he was found on the left by a good ball from Coke. The Coventry loanee pulled it back for REVAN, who took a touch and smashed a left-footed strike into the roof of the net.
Bromsgrove’s response to falling behind was initially positive but they were unable to test Crocombe and Town looked to settle the game down.
John-Lewis narrowly failed to get on the end of a great ball down the right from Pearson, then Jake Bloomer was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon for a poor challenge on Sousa.
And from the resulting free kick, the Mariners doubled their advantage as Revan’s delivery was met by LONGE-KING at the far post. His header looked to have been stopped by Onodi but the referee ruled the ball had crossed the line and gave the goal.
Town then made it 3-0 with still less than half an hour on the clock as Bapaga found Aston Villa loanee REVAN, who cut inside to improve his angle before sending a low, right-footed shot past his parent club-mate Onodi and into the far bottom corner of the net.
Sousa’s pace took him on a run down the left as the Mariners looked for a fourth goal but he could not pick out a team-mate and the advantage remained at three.
A rare Bromsgrove attack on 34 minutes saw Bloomer float a free kick into the box and the ball broke for Will Shorrock, who shot just wide from 18 yards.
Bapaga won a corner after another good ball from Pearson but Revan’s ball from the flag was glanced off-target by John-Lewis.
A foul by Coke gave the home side a free kick on the halfway line on 38 minutes but they were unable to create any danger from it, before Bapaga let fly with a shot from 25 yards which was gathered by the keeper at the second attempt.
Onodi then did well to deny John-Lewis twice in quick succession, then Clifton was unlucky when the ball bobbled in front of him as he looked to shoot after being played in by Bapaga.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the half and Shorrock forced a save from Crocombe when he let fly from 25 yards. The keeper was equal to it though, pushing the ball away for a corner.
That meant Town took a healthy three-goal lead into the dressing room at half-time, which their performance had fully merited.
Khouri replaced Clifton before the restart and John-Lewis beat the onrushing Onodi to the ball on the Grimsby right in the opening seconds but he was unable to send it towards the unguarded net.
A Revan corner from the right soon afterwards was headed behind for another one but this time, there were no problems for the keeper as Bromsgrove brought the ball clear out of defence.
An exchange between Sousa and Bapaga led to another corner on 50 minutes, which was caught by Onodi.
John-Lewis saw another shot blocked by the keeper, before a run into the box by Sousa ended with him firing well over the bar after the ball bobbled in front of him as he shot.
Demetri Brown replaced Jack Newell as Bromsgrove looked to an extra striker in a bid to force their way back into a game which Town had completely under control.
Brown’s first action of note was to fire a shot which was saved by Crocombe, then Town went straight down the other end and a penalty claim for a foul on Bapaga by James Mace was waved away by the referee. The ball broke for Soussa but neither he nor John-Lewis could send it towards goal.
Wright replaced Sousa on the hour and a snap-shot by John-Lewis went wide of the target as Town continued to dominate proceedings.
John-Lewis had another chance after great vision by Coke saw him find the striker on the edge of the box. He did well to turn away from a defender but could only lift his shot high over the bar.
A Bromsgrove corner was headed wide by Pais but Twn remained on the front foot and a great cross from Khouri on the left fell for Wright, whose volley was blocked and cleared by defender Leon Broadhurst.
Shorrock sent a free kick over from the home left but it was headed clear by Pearson and Town broke to create a chance for Bapaga, although he was denied by the impressive Onodi, who added to his string of good saves.
Wright hit the side-netting as Town attacked again, before Essel replaced Fox in the visitors’ third substitution with 17 minutes left to play.
Cameron Ebbutt came on in place of Connor Taylor for the hosts as they looked for a consolation goal.
A foul on Brown gave them a free kick on the left but Pearson was in the right place to head Ebbutt’s delivery clear.
Town were then given the chance to make it 4-0 when Essel was brought down by Onodi inside the box. JOHN-LEWIS was the man to step up and send the ball down the middle and into the net from 12 yards to ensure he got on the scoresheet.
Wright was tripped on 88 minutes by Masidi, who was shown the yellow card, and another penalty came when the ball broke for Bapaga and he was tripped by Shorrock. Again, John-Lewis stepped up to take it but this time, his spot-kick was kept out by Onodi, who made another fine save.
Wright and Pearson both went close after the game moved into three added minutes and there was still time for one more goal, as BAPAGA got the ball from John-Lewis, worked an opening and struck a shot into the far corner of the net to cap an excellent personal performance.
That proved to be the last kick of the game as Town confirmed their place in Sunday’s First Round draw.
After that, attention will turn back to the National League, with Yeovil Town the visitors to Blundell Park on Saturday.