Grimsby Town bowed out of the Papa John’s Trophy as League One Accrington Stanley edged a tight second round contest at Blundell Park.
After winning their group, the Mariners were playing in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time since its restructure. But their run was brought to an end at the last-32 stage as a second-half Tommy Leigh penalty proved to be the difference on the night. Town had opportunities to hit back and force a penalty shootout as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser but it was not to come as the visitors held firm to secure their place in the next round.
Four changes were made to the Grimsby starting XI, with Gavan Holohan, Evan Khouri, Keyendrah Simmonds and Danilo Orsi all coming into the team as Luke Waterfall, Harry Clifton, Kieran Green and John McAtee came out. Max Crocombe started in goal, with Michee Efete, Niall Maher, Andy Smith and Danny Amos forming the defence. Holohan, Bryn Morris and Khouri were the midfielders, with Simmonds and Otis Khan linking up with Orsi in attack. Green, Clifton and McAtee were all named on the bench, alongside Jamie Pardington, Shaun Pearson, Lewis Richardson and Brendan Kiernan.
Accrington reached the knockout stages as the second-placed team in Northern Group D, behind Salford City and ahead of Rochdale and Liverpool U21. They made just three changes following an away victory at Cambridge United on Saturday as manager John Coleman signalled his aim to progress further in the competition.
A foul by Morris gave the visitors their first opportunity to put pressure on the Town goal on seven minutes but Roshire Longelo’s free kick from the left was headed away by Smith.
Striker Korede Adedoyin was crowded out as he looked to work an opening on the edge of the penalty area, before an Amos cross was cleared as the hosts attacked for the first time.
Adedoyin sent a low strike wide of the far post from the right, before a Harvey Rodgers cross was hooked clear by Maher, who also got to the resulting long throw first.
At the other end, a great cross-field ball from Amos found Holohan on the right but his pull-back was put out for a corner by defender Baba Fernandes before Orsi could get to it. The ball from the flag was punched clear by keeper Lukas Jensen but Town kept possession until Simmonds was stopped by a good challenge from Tommy Leigh.
A low shot from Longelo was deflected behind for an Accrington corner on 20 minutes and it was headed away by Amos as far as Ethan Hamilton, whose 25-yard volley drew a great save from Crocombe as the keeper dived to push the ball away for another corner. This time, Amos was fouled as he brought the ball clear.
Accrington were having the better of possession but an opening for Town came when Maher made progress into the away half and played a through-ball into the path of Orsi. The striker was unable to get on the end of it though, after some good defending by Rodgers.
Jensen raced out of his penalty area to beat Khan to a diagonal ball from Holohan on 32 minutes, before Dan Martin was stopped after a burst into the box at the other end.
Adedoyin had the best chance of the evening so far when the ball was chipped to him from the left but after guiding his header back across goal and past Crocombe, he could only watch it bounce back off the post.
Town were also looking to step up a gear as half-time approached and a pass from Simmonds inside the box proved just too far ahead of Orsi as Jensen got to it first.
Stanley were still looking the more dangerous though and a powerful strike from distance by Leigh whistled just over the bar on 41 minutes.
Simmonds fired just wide of the near post from 25 yards soon afterwards, then Khan sent a left-footed effort over the bar.
A shirt-pull by Simmonds gave the away side a free kick on their right as the half moved into one added minute and after Longelo’s delivery was not fully dealt with, the ball was sent back into the box for Adedoyin at the far post. His shot was blocked by Crocombe and a follow-up by Leigh went off-target.
That meant it remained goalless at the break and while Accrington had created the better chances, the Mariners had shown plenty of positive signs themselves and it was still anyone’s game.
No changes were made before the restart and the visitors had a chance to open the scoring within seconds as Adedoyin raced down the right and cut inside before hitting a low effort which Crocombe got down to tip around his near post for a corner.
A foul by Morris on Hamilton led to another opening as the free kick was taken quickly and Mitch Clark got in behind the Town defence, although he could only side-foot wide.
Striker Shaun Whalley was booked for a late challenge on Simmons on 55 minutes after a spell of Grimsby pressure, then an Accrington penalty appeal was waved away when Whalley went down under a challenge from Crocombe after the visitors had split the Town defence.
Kiernan replaced Khouri, McAtee came on for Simmonds, Richardson joined the action in place of Orsi and Khan made way for Clifton as the hosts made four substitutions just after the hour.
Soon afterwards, Maher did well to stop Adedoyin and get the ball clear for a throw-in and from it, there was another chance for the striker, although his weak shot was saved by Crocombe.
But the next time they went forward, the visitors were given their chance to take the lead, as Whalley burst into the box and was brought down from behind by Morris. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and LEIGH stepped up to beat the dive of the Mariners keeper and break the deadlock.
After the goal, Accrington immediately set off in search of another and Crocombe was called into action to make a block from Adedoyin, before a shot from Hamilton was blocked by Smith.
The long throw of Doug Thame was also being used to put pressure on the Town defence, although they were standing up to it well.
McAtee’s first attacking involvement of note saw him win a corner on the right after cutting inside and pulling the ball back. The ball from the flag was flicked towards goal by Maher but it was cleared at the far post.
Another chance came soon afterwards when McAtee was fouled on the halfway line and after Morris’ driven delivery into the box was not dealt with, a shot from Maher was blocked by the feet of keeper Jensen.
Dylan Moonan replaced Hamilton for Accrington with 12 minutes to go and seconds later, a long throw from Thame fell for Leigh but his shot on the turn was comfortably gathered by Crocombe.
Richardson saw a shot blocked after he worked an opening on the edge of the box, before Clifton lifted an effort over the bar after a good attacking move.
Jack Nolan replaced Longelo in the away side’s second change on 82 minutes, then a Kiernan cross was headed away as Town continued to push forward in search of an equaliser.
Clifton headed over the bar from an Efete cross, before a chance for the away side came when substitute Nolan was tripped by Smith in a central position on the edge of the box. The centre-back was booked for the foul but Leigh could not make the most of the opportunity as his powerful free kick flew wide.
The referee’s yellow card was out again as the game moved into four added minutes as Rodgers was booked for bringing Richardson down. Morris’ free kick was cleared but Town kept possession and a shot from Kiernan was blocked.
Town continued to attack but they were unable to find a way through as their run in the competition came to an end.
Their focus now switches to the FA Cup and Saturday’s second round trip to Cambridge United.