Match report: Grimsby Town 0-1 Notts County

Grimsby Town fell to a last-minute defeat as Notts County became the first team this season to take points away from Blundell Park.

In a close contest between two of the sides fancied to be pushing for promotion from the National League, the Mariners had the better chances but were unable to force a breakthrough.

Lenell John-Lewis went closest as he hit the bar with a curling effort in the first half, while Erico Sousa half-volleyed wide before the break and saw another effort saved after the interval.

As the clock ticked down, it looked like the game was set to end 0-0 but Ruben Rodrigues popped up in the last minute to grab the all-important goal and settle the result in the visitors’ favour.

Two changes were made to the Town starting XI following Tuesday’s loss at Wealdstone, with Alex Hunt and Harry Clifton returning in place of Will Bapaga and the injured John McAtee.

James McKeown started in goal, with Ryan Sears, Luke Waterfall, Ryley Towler and Adam Crookes again forming the defence. Hunt and Coke sat in midfield behind Sousa, Fox and Clifton, with John-Lewis leading the attack.

Bapaga was named on the bench, where there was also a return for Ryan Taylor alongside Seb Revan, Shaun Pearson and Evan Khouri.

Notts were unchanged from their midweek home draw with Bromley as they looked to make further progress towards the top of the league table.

Ian Burchnall’s men sat in eighth place at kick-off and would look to the likes of strikers Rodrigues and Kyle Wootton to fire them to victory.

Town looked to have an early opening when Sousa played the ball through into the penalty area for Fox but he was crowded out, with Dion Kelly-Evans clearing.

The visitors won the first corner on 12 minutes but Waterfall was first to Matt Palmer’s delivery and Sousa completed the clearance.

Clifton won a corner at the other end soon afterwards, although Hunt’s low ball from it was dealt with at the near post.

A flowing attacking move on 18 minutes brought a free kick in a dangerous, right-of-centre position when John-Lewis was fouled. From it, Hunt’s shot flew just wide of the target.

Neither goalkeeper had been tested in an opening 20 minutes played mostly in midfield areas, with both teams looking to keep possession and patiently build up attacks.

A cross from Fox on the left was blocked, as was a shot by Clifton from 20 yards when the ball rebounded to him.

The Mariners were inches away from taking the lead on 28 minutes, after Fox found John-Lewis with a good ball down the left. The striker cut into the box and measured a curling shot which beat keeper Anthony Patterson but bounced back off the crossbar at the far post.

Another opportunity came four minutes later when Clifton found Sousa in space but he could only fire wide of the near post on the half-volley.

Town were forced into a substitution on 36 minutes after Sears went down in a challenge and appeared to pick up an arm injury. Revan was sent on in his place.

A good cross-field ball from Hunt on 43 minutes found Clifton on the left and he sent a cross into the box, although John-Lewis was not able to trouble Patterson as he headed off-target.

Four added minutes were played at the end of the first half and another chance for the Mariners came when a cross from the right fell for John-Lewis, although he could not squeeze it into the net from a tight angle. His powerful shot was charged down and the striker was then penaalised for a foul on Patterson.

Rodrigues became the first to be shown the yellow card after a foul on Clifton on the Grimsby left but Hunt’s free kick was too close to the keeper, so the scoreline remained blank at the interval.

Callum Roberts and Aaron Nemane replaced Kelly-Evans and Jim O’Brien for the away side before the restart but Town had the first attack of note, with Crookes heading at Patterson.

Notts won an early corner but Palmer’s ball from the left was headed back to McKeown, then John-Lewis turned well and shot wide at the other end after Sousa chested the ball down.

Substitute Roberts was booked for a foul on Clifton near the halfway line, before the away side’s first real chance of the game came when Clifton gave the ball away and Roberts took it forward, although his shot was pushed away by McKeown.

A Notts free kick came soon aftrerwards but it caused no problems, then a fantastic run from Sousa through the middle saw him bring the ball out of defence and reach the halfway line. He looked for John-Lewis down the right but the pass was disappointing and the ball went out for a throw-in.

A low effort from Fox was blocked for a corner on 65 minutes and after Hunt’s low delivery came back to him, a cross from Coke was headed over the bar by Crookes.

Rodrigues wasted what had been a good position for the visitors as he could only find McKeown with a low ball across goal after beating the offside trap to get away down the left.

Another run through the middle by Sousa ended with a ball for Fox which was just behind the midfielder, then Fox cleared the Mariners’ lines after a free kick was not initially fully dealt with.

Taylor replaced John-Lewis on 75 minutes in Town’s first substitution, as Notts were starting to put more pressure on the Grimsby defence.

A shot by Sousa was tipped over the bar for a corner and it eventually led to another one on the opposite, left flank. This time, Hunt’s ball was headed wide by Towler.

Ed Francis replaced Frank Vincent in the visitors’ midfield on 78 minutes, before a free kick from Hunt on the halfway line was well-defended.

Fox won a corner on the left as the clock ticked past the 80-minute mark but Sousa could not direct his header towards goal and the ball flew away for a Notts throw-in.

Taylor sent a left-footed strike wide of the target after getting to a loose ball inside the box as the Mariners kept pressing in search of a breakthrough.

A foul on Soussa gave Town a free kick near the halfway line on 85 minutes but Hunt’s delivery was headed clear.

Hunt was booked for a foul on Rodrigues from behind but Francis’ free kick from halfway was headed away from danger.

Revan conceded a corner as he looked to shield a long ball out of play but again, the visitors were unable to make it count as Waterfall headed clear.

But the next time they went forward, the away side grabbed their crucial winning goal. A driven cross from Palmer on the right could only be parried by McKeown into the path of RODRIGUES, who made no mistake as he rifled the rebound into the net from 12 yards.

Three added minutes were played at the end of the game but the Mariners were unable to respond and they were instead left to taste defeat from a game they will feel they should not have lost.

Next up for Town is a trip to Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday in the first round of the FA Cup.


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