Match Report: Notts County 2-1 Grimsby Town

Grimsby Town lost their final away game of the season as Notts County claimed all three points to keep their fight against relegation alive.

The Mariners, backed by more than 1,200 travelling supporters at Meadow Lane, started well as they looked to back up their Easter Monday victory with another win.

But their hosts, aiming to beat the drop to the National League, came into the game as the first half went on and took the lead soon after the break through veteran striker Craig Mackail-Smith.

And the outcome was put beyond doubt when defender Pierce Bird flicked a header into the net from a free kick to make it 2-0 and take the relegation battle between Notts and Macclesfield to the final day of the season after Yeovil’s draw meant they will go down.

Alex Whitmore pulled a goal back for Town in the closing seconds of the game but it came too late to change anything in terms of the result.

Two changes were made to the Grimsby starting XI following the win over Carlisle, with Joe Grayson returning to the line-up in place of Sebastian Ring as Martyn Woolford came in for Kristian Dennis.

James McKeown started in goal, with Reece Hall-Johnson, Harry Davis and Whitmore in defence.

Luke Hendrie and Grayson operated as wing-backs, with Harry Clifton, Jake Hessenthaler and Woolford in midfield and Charles Vernam joining Ahkeem Rose in attack.

Ring was named on the bench, along with Sam Russell, Harry Cardwell, Max Wright, Rumarn Burrell, Jock Curran and Mattie Pollock.

Notts came into the game knowing anything less than a win could mean relegation being confirmed today, while a victory would keep their hopes of remaining in League Two going until next week’s final round of fixtures.

Their team included former Town midfielder Mitch Rose, while Mackail-Smith led the home attack.

An early break in play came when Rose went down injured but he was passed fit to play on.

The first chance of the game came on nine minutes when Hendrie let fly with a shot which was pushed away for a corner by home keeper Ryan Schofield.  Clifton met the delivery from the flag but his flicked header at the near post was stopped by Schofield.

A home penalty appeal was waved away by the referee after Matt Tootle went down as a cross came into the box, before a delivery from Woolford at the other end led to a goal kick as Rose could not direct it on target.

Notts won a corner when a break from Rose was stopped by Clifton but the ball from the flag was caught by McKeown.

Jim O’Brien forced McKeown into a good save when he shot from 20 yards, with the keeper tipping the ball away for a corner.  Bird met the ball from the flag but his header went into the side-netting.

A foul on Hall-Johnson at the other end gave Town a free kick but Grayson’s ball was caught by Schofield and the hosts launched a quick break which led to McKeown’s clearance looping back off Mackail-Smith before Hall-Johnson dealt with the danger at the expense of a corner.

Davis conceded a free kick in a dangerouus position when he fouled Mackail-Smith on 27 minutes but Tootle’s effort from it went over McKeown’s bar.

Another home corner came when Hendrie got the ball away after a break into the box by Rose but the flag-kick was dealt with by Hall-Johnson.

More pressure was to come with another Notts corner on 35 minutes but again, they were unable to turn it into a goalscoring opportunity as McKeown palmed the ball away and the hosts failed to capitalise.

A Notts free kick was eventually cleared after Doyle’s ball was headed up into the air and McKeown’s punch lacked distance.

Striker Kane Hemmings’ cross was held by McKeown as Notts kept up their search for what could be a crucial opening goal.

But two added minutes at the end of the half passed without either side managing to break the deadlock, wth Town playing well for much of the opening 45 minutes and results elsewhere meaning the hosts’ survival hopes hinged on the outcome of this game.

No changes were made before the restart and an early foul on Rose gave the Mariners a free kick but Grayson’s delivery was headed clear after Sam Stubbs was booked.

Hall-Johnson was shown the yellow card after a foul but the resulting free kick did not cause any problems.

But soon afterwards, the home side did make a breakthrough when a cross from Rose took a deflection before finding its way through to MACKAIL-SMITH, who touched it into the net at the far post.

That ensured the noise level went up in the home sections of the stadium and the Notts pressure continued with a corner soon afterwards, which eventually led to a header from Stubbs going off-target for a goal kick.

The first substitution of the afternoon saw Wright sent on in place of Hall-Johnson for the Mariners, before a free kick whipped into the Town box was cleared by Clifton.

A foul on Clifton earned Notts’ Rose a booking but Town were unable to cause significant problems from the free kick.

A home corner was headed clear by Rose before a high foot on Wright eased the pressure further as the referee gave a free kick.

Woolford fouled Rose to give the hosts a free kick midway inside the Town half on 69 minutes and from it, Notts doubled their lead as the ball was whipped into the box by Michael Doyle and BIRD flicked a header into the bottom corner.

Burrell and Cardwell replaced Rose and Vernam as Town boss Michael Jolley rotated his attack in a bid to get back into the game.

A curling free kick from Grayson was pushed away by keeper Schofield, before a double change from the home side saw Virgil Gomis and Jon Stead come on for Mackail-Smith and Hemmings.

Wright created an opportunity for himself on 81 minutes, cutting inside from the right before firing a shot which was tipped over the bar for a corner by Schofield.

Grayson had another shot from a free kick soon afterwards but this time, it went just over the bar.

Six added minutes were played at the end of the game and in the last of them, Town got themselves on the scoresheet when a free kick from McKeown fell for WHITMORE and he produced a good finish to beat Schofield and make it 2-1.

That proved to be the last meaningful action of the contest as Notts ensured they could still stay in League Two if results go their way next week.

The Mariners, safe in the divison for next season, complete their programme of fixtures when Crewe Alexandra visit Blundell Park on Saturday.

Notts County

27 Ryan Schofield 
2 Matt Tootle 
24 Robert Milsom 
3 Pierce Bird
16 Shaun Brisley 
18 Sam Stubbs 
26 Mitch Rose 
43 Michael Doyle (C) 
21 Jim O’Brien 
15 Kane Hemmings 
28 Craig Mackail-Smith


1 Ross Fitzsimons 
25 Cedric Evina
8 David Vaughan 
7 Lewis Alessandra 
11 Enzio Boldewijn 
10 Virgil Gomis 
30 Jon Stead


1 James McKeown (C) 
2 Reece Hall-Johnson 
14 Joe Grayson 
24 Harry Davis 
25 Alex Whitmore
7 Jake Hessenthaler 
18 Charles Vernam 
27 Luke Hendrie 
15 Harry Clifton 
21 Ahkeem Rose 
16 Martyn Woolford


23 Sam Russell 
31 Matthew Pollock 
3 Sebastian Ring 
30 Jock Curran 
20 Max Wright 
29 Rumarn Burrell 
17 Harry Cardwell

Attendance: 8,598 (1,209)


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