Match Report – Grimsby Town 2 – 1 Solihull Moors

Grimsby Town booked an instant return to the Football League as they beat Solihull Moors after extra time in the National League Promotion Final at the London Stadium.

As had been the case in their two previous play-off games, the Mariners were forced to come from behind after Kyle Hudlin put Solihull ahead on the stroke of half-time.

But John McAtee levelled the scores and after a winner could not be found in the regulation 90 minutes, extra-time specialists Town went to an additional half-hour for the third game in a row.

And this time, substitute Jordan Maguire-Drew was the hero as he got on the end of a flicked-on long throw 10 minutes from time to send more than 13,000 travelling Mariners fans into raptures and ensure those supporters will be watching League Two football next season after just one campaign outside the top four divisions.

Boss Paul Hurst opted to stick with the men who got his side this far as he again named an unchanged starting XI following the play-off away wins at Notts County and Wrexham.

That meant goalkeeper Max Crocombe stood behind a defence of Jordan Cropper, Andy Smith, Luke Waterfall and Danny Amos, while Erico Sousa, Ben Fox, Gavan Holohan and Harry Clifton made up the midfield and McAtee supported Ryan Taylor in attack.

The bench was also unchanged following last week’s dramatic victory in north Wales, with Shaun Pearson, Arjan Raikhy, Maguire-Drew, Tristan Abrahams and Mani Dieseruvwe all awaiting their opportunity as substitutes.

Solihull manager Neal Ardley stuck with the same starting line-up following their home semi-final success against Chesterfield, with top scorer Andrew Dallas and giant striker Hudlin set to be among the Moors’ main threats.

The West Midlands side finished the regular season 10 points ahead of Town and won both of the league meetings between the two sides, although the prospect of being just 90 minutes away from a return to the elite 92 clubs meant no other motivation was needed pre-match for the men from Blundell Park.

Solihull won the first corner in the second minute and it eventually led to another after Callum Howe had prodded towards goal.  This time, referee Martin Woods blew for a foul and a Town free kick.

Fox got back and challenged well inside the box to stop a dangerous-looking run from Dallas, who had cut in from the left, then Cropper’s first long throw of the afternoon led to keeper Joe McDonnell having to make a good save after Hudlin diverted the ball back towards his own goal.

A foul by Cropper gave Solihull a free kick to the left of the Town penalty area on 13 minutes but Harry Boyes’ near-post delivery was nodded behind for a corner by Fox.  From it, Howe rose highest at the far post but planted his header inches wide.

A cross from Sousa on 21 minutes was headed away as far as Holohan but his 20-yard shot was blocked, before a low ball from Amos on the opposite flank was hooked clear.

Clifton was pushed on the Town left a minute later but the free kick from Amos was headed clear.

Solihull had made a more confident start but the Mariners were growing into the game and a drive from Clifton on 23 minutes flew just wide of the target.

Crocombe’s first big save of the afternoon came after Town lost possession in midfield and Dallas pounced but the stopper somehow managed to get to his deflected shot and push it away for a corner, which was cleared.

McAtee made some space around the edge of the Moors box soon afterwards and slipped the ball through for Holohan, although the midfielder’s attempt was blocked and Sousa was unable to profit from the rebound.

Defender Kyle Storer escaped conceding a penalty after he caught McAtee with a poor challenge inside the box on 34 minutes and as the game continued, Hudlin raced clear but Amos got back to make a brave challenge.

Holohan could only find the grateful arms of McDonnell with a low, first-time shot after good play by McAtee and Taylor as Town continued to create opportunities, then Clifton lifted the ball over the bar at the far post after McAtee and Sousa had combined down the right.

Amos had to concede a corner at the other end on 43 minutes but the ball from it was caught by Crocombe and the keeper was then fouled by Storer.

One added minute was signalled to be played at the end of the half and as the clock ticked into it, the Mariners fell behind.  Joe Sbarra stood the ball up to the far post and HUDLIN was there to head it down, beyond the dive of Crocombe and into the net.

That meant after a half where both teams had enjoyed good spells, it was Solihull who held the advantage at the interval.

After coming from behind in both of their play-off games so far though, the Mariners would still be confident they could turn the scoreline around after the break.

No changes were made before the restart and an early cross from Clifton was blocked for a throw-in, then a cross-shot by Holohan was diverted wide by Clifton.

McAtee sent a half-volley whistling just over the bar from 20 yards as Town continued to make the early running as thy searched for an equalising goal.

A stoppage came when Hudlin went down with a head injury after being caught by Smith in a challenge in the air.  Both were passed fit to continue after receiving treatment.

Sbarra headed tamely wide soon after the game restarted, then Solihull were forced into a change after Hudlin went down again.  This time, he was unable to carry on and Danny Newton was sent on in his place.

Clifton won a corner on the Town left just after the hour but Amos’ ball from it was headed clear.

A strike by McAtee was deflected behind for a corner as the Mariners kept pushing but again, Amos’ delivery was headed clear.  Town worked it back and a low ball across the penalty area from Fox caused chaos but neither Smith nor Taylor could force it towards goal.

Maguire-Drew replaced Sousa in Grimsby’s first substitution on 65 minutes and his first involvement was to win a throw-in on the right for Cropper to hurl into the box.  Boyes met it with a strong clearing header.

Town did not have to wait much longer to get themselves level though, as Smith’s through-ball was left by Maguire-Drew for McATEE, who coolly slotted past McDonnell and into the net to make it 1-1 on 70 minutes.

Dallas sent a free header over the bar as Solihull immediately looked to get their advantage back, with the game now wide open.

A foul on Cropper gave Town a free kick on the right but they were unable to profit from it, then a push by Cropper on Dallas gave the Moors a free kick right on the edge of the Grimsby box.  The right-back was shown the first yellow card of the game for the foul.  Boyes hit the free kick but Town managed to get the ball away for a corner after a scramble.

Waterfall conceded another corner on 79 minutes but it was headed out and when Ryan Barnett’s cross was blocked, Town broke and Storer was booked for bringing Clifton down on the halfway line.

Dieseruvwe replaced Taylor for the last 10 minutes, then Solihull were given another opportunity to create danger with a free kick for a foul by Holohan.  From it, the ball came to Alex Gudger but he missed a glorious chance as he could only head over the bar.

McAtee did well to win a throw-in on the right with four minutes to go but Cropper’s beat everybody.

Town were inches away from taking the lead seconds later as Maguire-Drew sent a low ball across the six-yard line but McAtee, stretching, could only get enough on it to send it wide of the far post.

A Solihull break down the left came to nothing and as the game moved into six added minutes, there was still everything to play for.

Raikhy replaced McAtee for the final three minutes of the added time and a Cropper long throw was well dealt-with.

Solihull had a spell of pressure as the clock ticked down but the ball eventually ended up with Crocombe and the 90 minutes ended with the scores still all-square.

No further changes came before the start of extra time and Waterfall had to head behind to give the Moors an early corner, which led to a Town free kick for a foul on Cropper.

A push by Smith on Dallas resulted in a free kick and the ball from it was headed out for a Solihull throw, which led to Gudger sending an attempt wide.

Smith hooked clear after a run and cross from Sbarra, then Sbarra was involved again as he sent a low effort through to Crocombe.

Abrahams came on for Holohan on 10 minutes as the Mariners used their additional substitution permitted in extra time.

A Solihull long throw was headed on before Waterfall put it behind for a corner, which was headed away by Fox.

One added minute was played at the end of the first period and it ended with neither team any closer to being crowned the winners.

A cross from Abrahams was cleared after good play by Fox, then Callum Reilly replaced the influential Sbarra for Solihull.

Then, with nine minutes to go, the moment finally came as a Cropper long throw was flicked on and MAGUIRE-DREW gambled to get on the end of it at the far post and fire into the roof of the net to put the Mariners ahead.

Mark Ellis replaced Callum Maycock, before Reiss McNally came on for Dallas in a bid to rescue the game for the Moors.

They were given an additional two minutes but Town closed the game out to ensure a remarkable season ended on the greatest of highs.

The Mariners can now look forward to being back in the Football League for the 2022-23 campaign, which is due to begin on Saturday, July 30.

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