Gavan Holohan’s early goal against his former club proved not to be enough for Grimsby Town to claim another victory on the road as struggling Hartlepool United fought back to take all three points.
Holohan’s wonder strike from 20 yards put the Mariners ahead in County Durham on six minutes and his respectful lack of celebration drew applause from all sides of the ground.
Town were dominant in the early stages and created several openings to add to their lead but Hartlepool grew in confidence as the first half went on and began to play their way into the game.
After the break, the away side looked to have regained control but crucially, they were unable to make it count with a second goal and were punished when Alex Lacey headed the equaliser on 78 minutes.
From then, the momentum was with the hosts and they completed the turnaround with Josh Umerah’s deft finish eight minutes from time to earn only their second win of the season and make it back-to-back away defeats for Town.
Three changes were made to the Grimsby starting XI after the loss at Barrow in midweek, with Niall Maher, Danny Amos and Lewis Richardson coming into the team as Jordan Cropper, Kieran Green and Otis Khan made way.
Goalkeeper Max Crocombe had a back three of Luke Waterfall, Andy Smith and Maher in front of him, with Michee Efete and Amos operating as wing-backs. Harry Clifton, Holohan and Bryn Morris formed a central midfield trio, with Richardson supporting Ryan Taylor in attack.
Cropper, Green and Khan were all named on the bench, alongside Shaun Pearson, Alex Hunt, Aribim Pepple and Keyendrah Simmonds.
Hartlepool came into the game as League Two’s bottom club and were looking to move off the foot of League Two with a positive result.
Former Mariner Ben Killip started in goal for Pools, while their captain Nicky Featherstone had a loan spell at Blundell Park during the 2009-10 season.
Town had the first opening in the second minute as Efete overlapped down the right but his low ball across the six-yard line proved too far ahead of Taylor for the striker to connect.
Holohan won the game’s first corner as the visitors’ promising start continued and after Amos played the ball short from the flag, Holohan’s cross led to Clifton volleying at Killip.
Richardson saw a shot blocked on seven minutes, before the deadlock was broken as the ball came to HOLOHAN and he arrowed a brilliant shot from 20 yards into the far corner of the net.
The midfielder remains a popular figure in Hartlepool after being part of the team that won promotion from the National League in 2021 before moving to Town and he offered an apologetic wave to the home fans behind the goal instead of any celebration and was rewarded with a warm round of applause from all sides of the ground.
At the other end, Waterfall had to clear for a throw-in to stop striker Umerah getting to the ball after it had been headed into the penalty area as the hosts threatened for the first time.
Wes McDonald won a corner on the home right on 16 minutes but it did not lead to any problems as the ball went all the way out for a Town throw on the opposite flank.
Reghan Tumilty was shown the first yellow card a minute later for pulling Clifton down on the halfway line and Maher followed him into the referee’s notebook soon afterwards for a foul on the home right. The resulting free kick was headed clear by Waterfall.
A cross from Holohan on the right was headed away before it could reach Clifton, before Town’s next attack saw Clifton set off on a run through the middle but he was unable to pick out a team-mate at the end of it.
A foul by Taylor brought another attack to an end, with Holohan firing a cross-shot from the right soon afterwards which was gathered by Killip as the away side continued to dominate.
Clarke Oduor lifted a shot over the bar for Hartlepool, before Holohan linked up with Efete down the right and the wing-back’s driven cross was headed behind for a corner. Waterfall got to Morris’ ball from the flag first but then fouled his man and the referee blew for a home free kick.
Callum Cooke sent a low drive wide as the home side started to grow into the game with the half-hour mark approaching.
Waterfall was then booked for a foul on Umerah on the edge of the Town box and Crocombe was called into action for the first time from the free kick as he dived to push McDonald’s shot away for a corner.
A home penalty appeal was waved away after Oduor went down, before Richardson was penalised for a push on David Ferguson at the other end.
Town had the ball in the net on 37 minutes when Taylor’s low shot beat Killip but the striker was flagged offside after being picked out by Richardson.
A cross from Umerah was deflected into the side-netting for a corner by Waterfall but the home side were unable to profit from the flag, as the initial ball was headed away by Taylor and a follow-up cross was caught by Crocombe.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the first half and with no further chances created by either side, Town’s advantage remained intact at the break.
The Mariners had started very well but after being unable to add to their lead, Hartlepool grew in confidence as the half went on, meaning the game was far from over as a contest.
No changes were made before the restart and Town had an early chance to double their lead through Clifton but his low shot was saved by Killip.
A foul on Efete brought a free kick on the right two minutes in but Morris’ ball was headed clear at the edge of the box.
Crocombe made a great save on 50 minutes as he dived to push a low shot from Cooke away from goal, then Richardson did well to win a corner at the other end but the ball from the flag was headed clear.
Lacey became the latest to be yellow-carded after he dragged Richardson back midway inside the Hartlepool half. From the free kick, Town were inches away from a second goal as Morris’ delivery was headed back across by Waterfall for Maher, whose first-time shot was touched wide for a corner.
Smith won another corner moments later but it came to nothing as Morris was caught offside when the ball was played back to him.
Pepple replaced Taylor as Town made the first substitution of the game on 63 minutes, before a foul by Holohan on Ferguson gave the home side a free kick on their right. Oduor’s delivery was headed away by Efete.
Another Holohan foul in midfield brought a further opportunity for Hartlepool to put pressure on the Grimsby goal but the ball from it was scrambled away after it was dropped by Crocombe.
Pepple fired wide on the turn as Town created an opening inside the home penalty area with 69 minutes on the clock, before Green replaced Richardson, with the away side looking to protect their lead.
Theo Robinson came on in place of Featherstone with 17 minutes to go to give the hosts an extra attacking option as they continued to search for an equaliser.
Clifton had a chance after a good pass by Holohan but the midfielder’s low attempt was stopped by the keeper.
A foul by Maher then gave Hartlepool a free kick in a dangerous position on their left and from it, they were level. The ball into the box was not fully dealt with and when it was played back in from the right by Ferguson, LACEY met it to head past Crocombe.
Town immediately went back on the attack as they looked to reclaim the advantage and a free kick 30 yards from goal gave them a platform, although the offside flag went up when Waterfall headed Morris’ ball back across goal.
Instead, the hosts completed the turnaround on 82 minutes as a deep cross from Ferguson on the left found its way through to UMERAH, whose touch diverted it past Crocombe and into the net.
Simmonds was sent on in place of Morris and Khan replaced Maher as Town now found themselves aiming to rescue a point after being in control for much of the afternoon.
Ellis Taylor came on for McDonald for the home side soon afterwards and they won a corner on the right with two minutes to go but the ball from the flag was claimed by Crocombe.
A corner at the other end was headed clear as the game moved into three added minutes but the Mariners kept possession and worked the ball back for Simmonds to fire wide from 18 yards.
That proved to be the last chance for Town to rescue something from a game which for long periods, they had looked almost certain to win as the home side held firm at the back to secure a vital three points.
The Mariners are next in action on Saturday, when they host League One Plymouth Argyle in the first round of the FA Cup.