Grimsby Town’s pre-season programme started with a victory over neighbours Cleethorpes Town in a closely-contested friendly at the myenergi Stadium.
The Mariners named entirely different XIs for each half on a warm afternoon as all five new signings got their first taste of action in the black and white shirts, in front of a capacity crowd.
In the traditional pre-season curtain-raiser, Cleethorpes created the better chances over the early stages but John McAtee opened the scoring for Town eight minutes before the break.
The visitors then had to wait until five minutes from time to ensure their win, as Danilo Orsi marked his debut with a goal to make it 2-0.
Paul Hurst’s first starting line-up of the summer included just one of his new recruits, with Otis Khan taking a place on the left wing.
Ollie Battersby was the goalkeeper, with Michee Efete, Luke Waterfall, Jaz Goundry and Danny Amos forming the defence. Jordan Maguire-Drew, Gavan Holohan, Jamie Bramwell and Khan were the midfielders, with McAtee behind Edwin Essel in attack.
Cleethorpes manager Dave Smith selected four of his five summer additions from the start as Will Annan, Dec Howe, Rio Molyneaux and Curtis Bateson were all included.
Howe would be one to watch for the Owls after scoring both goals in the 2-0 win over Whitley Bay which kicked-off their pre-season campaign last Saturday. The highly-rated frontman’s 28 goals for Staveley Miners Welfare last term earned him a move up a division to North East Lincolnshire.
Former Mariners Paul Walker and Josh Venney were familiar faces in the hosts’ line-up.
Howe had the first chance of the game on five minutes but his shot from 20 yards went harmlessly wide.
Annan tried his luck from distance soon afterwards and it led to the afternoon’s first corner on the home left but the ball from the flag was comfortably cleared.
Howe had another opportunity on 10 minutes but he could not get enough power on his shot to beat Battersby, whose touch took the ball onto the post.
Town’s first opening came two minutes later from a free kick midway inside the Cleethorpes half. Maguire-Drew’s chip to the far post was met by Waterfall but his looping header was caught by keeper Tom Jackson.
Annan missed the target with a dipping strike from 25 yards as Cleethorpes continued to make the early running, then McAtee fired wide at the other end.
A run by Efete was stopped by a strong but fair challenge near the edge of the penalty area, before Molyneaux won a corner for the home side when his right-wing cross was blocked. Annan’s delivery from the flag was tipped over the bar by Battersby for another one, which was headed wide by Jordan Cooke.
After a short drinks break, another Annan corner from the right landed on the roof of the net, then Khan almost gave the Mariners the lead but Cooke did well to get back and clear off the line after the former Leyton Orient man had rolled the ball past the keeper towards the net.
McAtee sent a shot over the bar on the half-hour as Town continued to step up the tempo, before another chance came and went for Cleethorpes as neither Venney nor Howe could get a finishing touch to a low ball from the left.
Bateson saw a shot pushed away by Battersby for a corner, which was headed clear by Goundry, before Efete won Town’s first corner but Maguire-Drew’s delivery was caught by Jackson.
Cooke was in the right place to deny Essel with another great piece of defending but soon afterwards, the Mariners finally broke the deadlock as McATEE got the final touch at the far post after the ball had been pulled back across goal from the left by Amos.
That was how it remained at half-time, with Town taking a one-goal lead into the dressing rooms after a well-contested first 45 minutes in which the hosts had more than played their part.
An entirely different Grimsby XI came out for the second half, with the rest of the new arrivals all on show.
Max Crocombe lined up in goal behind a defence of Jordan Cropper, Shaun Pearson, Niall Maher and Anthony Glennon, with Harvey Tomlinson, Evan Khouri, Aaron Braithwaite and Harry Clifton forming the midfield as Stephen Wearne supported Orsi in attack.
Cleethorpes made six changes of their own before the restart, with Alex Flett and Brody Robertson among those coming on.
Another of their substitutes, Jack McMenemy, had the first chance of the second half as he took advantage of a mistake in the Town defence but he could not test Crocombe as his 20-yard strike sailed over the bar.
Tomlinson saw a low effort saved at the other end after cutting in from the right, before a foul on Wearne brought a free kick on the left edge of the box. The ball was sent towards the back post and put behind for a corner by Josh Smaller.
McMenemy sent Robertson through down the middle on 64 minutes but his first touch took him wide under pressure from the advancing Crocombe and the opportunity was gone.
Tomlinson won a corner on the Grimsby right three minutes later but Pearson could only head wide at the far post.
A foul on Tomlinson brought a free kick in a central position on 73 minutes, although Glennon’s shot from it narrowly missed the target.
Venney won a corner at the other end son afterwards as his strike was deflected behind but the ball from the flag was comfortably claimed by Crocombe.
A Town corner was cleared on 80 minutes but with five minute remaining, the Mainers made sure of their victory as Khouri pulled the ball back from the left for ORSI, who placed it into the bottom corner of the net.
Wearne was forced to come off with an injury with two minutes to go after going down when the ball dropped to him from a Glennon corner.
Another corner came in stoppage time and was cleared, before Tomlinson was twice well-blocked as he looked to make it 3-0 from a narrow angle.
In the end though, the Mariners were forced to settle for a two-goal margin of victory after what had been an entertaining contest and a very useful first run-out for the men from Blundell Park.
Preparations for the start of the new League Two season will now continue, with Grimsby’s next friendly scheduled for next Saturday at Alfreton Town.