Ten-man Grimsby Town fell to defeat as they were heavily beaten 5-0 by Swindon Town at the County Ground.
On a windy afternoon in Wiltshire, former Premier League striker Charlie Austin put the hosts ahead, before the Mariners’ task became tougher when Danny Amos was sent off with almost an hour still to play.
Town did well to repel Swindon pressure and stay in the contest until the hour mark but their resistance was broken when substitute Marcel Lavinier doubled the home side’s advantage, then Jonathan Williams wrapped up the points with a quickfire third goal.
Fellow sub Ronan Darcy came off the bench to grab a fourth, before Saidou Khan completed what had been a difficult afternoon for Town and their 565 travelling fans as his late strike made it 5-0.
New signing Mikey O’Neill came straight into the Grimsby starting line-up after joining on loan from Preston North End until the end of the season. He replaced Brendan Kiernan in what was the only change to the XI which began the FA Cup victory over Burton Albion last week.
Max Crocombe started in goal, with Michee Efete, Andy Smith, Niall Maher and Amos forming the defence. Harry Clifton, Gavan Holohan, Kieran Green and Otis Khan were the midfielders, with O’Neill joining John McAtee in attack.
Kiernan was named on the bench, alongside Anthony Glennon, Shaun Pearson, Stephen Wearne, Alex Hunt, Bryn Morris and Danilo Orsi.
After manager Scott Lindsey left for Crawley Town in midweek, Swindon were led by former Mariners Gavin Gunning and Steve Mildenhall, who were placed in temporary charge for this game. They gave a second debut to fans’ favourite Austin after he rejoined the club from Australian A-League side Brisbane Roar, 12 years on from leaving Wiltshire for Burnley.
The ex-West Bromwich Albion and Queen’s Park Rangers striker’s inclusion was one of five changes for the hosts as they looked to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat by Colchester United in their previous league game on New Year’s Day.
Town, playing against the strong wind, had the first chance of the game when Khan looked up from the left and found Holohan, 30 yards out. The ball sat up nicely for the midfielder and he let fly with a dipping strike which home keeper Sol Brynn had to tip over his bar for a corner. The delivery from the flag was cleared.
Swindon’s first attack saw Jacob Wakeling get down the right and play a low ball across the six-yard line, which was stopped by Crocombe.
The hosts’ Khan went close to opening the scoring on four minutes as he worked an opening on the edge of the box but he could only watch as his low strike bounced back off the post.
The offside flag then came to Town’s rescue as Swindon looked to have created another chance in what had been an end-to-end opening to the contest, before Amos shepherded the ball back to Crocombe after a cross from Williams.
A cross from Efete at the other end was put behind for a corner on 11 minutes and Amos’ ball from the flag was met by Green but his header was stopped by Brynn.
A stoppage came for referee Sam Purkiss to receive treatment after the ball hit him in the face from a Swindon clearance and following a lengthy delay, he was carried off the pitch on a stretcher and replaced.
The new official’s first decision was to give the home side a free kick just inside the Town half but it caused no problems, then a cross from the right was caught by Crocombe as Swindon went forward again.
Amos was spoken to by the referee when he threw the ball away in frustration after being unable to keep it in play on the left at the end of a Town attack.
Soon afterwards, the deadlock was broken and it was Swindon who took the lead. Remeao Hutton crossed the ball towards the far post from the right and AUSTIN was in the right place to meet it as he got in between Smith and Efete to head past Crocombe.
A chance came at the other end after Green did well to win the ball in midfield and divert it to Amos. The left-back then found McAtee, whose shot was deflected past the post for a corner on the left. The ball from it was cleared and Swindon broke, although Town recovered defensively to stop the danger.
The Mariners were reduced to 10 men on 33 minutes when Amos misjudged a ball through the middle and after Wakeling got to it ahead of him, the left-back brought him down just outside the box. As Amos was the last man, the referee had no hesitation in brandishing the red card.
Paul Hurst reacted by sending Glennon on, with Khan the unfortunate one to make way as the Town boss stuck with a back four. Clifton switched to the left side of midfield, with McAtee moving to the right as O’Neill was asked to lead the attack through the middle
Soon afterwards, Crocombe dived full-length to make a brilliant save after a cross from Hutton bounced off Smith. The ball looked to be heading for the net but the keeper managed to tip it away for a corner.
A low volley from Wakeling on 41 minutes was stopped by Crocombe, before McAtee connected with a superb ball from Glennon on the left at the other end under pressure from defender Ciaran Brennan but could only watch his shot go agonisingly wide of the far post.
Nine minutes were added at the end of the half and Crocombe was called into action again in the first of them to make a comfortable stop from Wakeling.
McAtee then shot at home keeper Brynn after O’Neill had done well to beat his man in midfield and take the ball forward.
Another Hutton cross from the home right was headed out for a corner by Smith but Efete was first to the ball from the flag. The Swindon pressure continued with a low ball from Khan on their right, although this time, it was turned away from danger by Glennon.
Crocombe raced off his line to beat Wakeling to a ball through the middle, then a brief stoppage came for Williams to receive treatment after he collided with Clifton in the air. The midfielder was passed fit to continue.
Austin curled a shot past the far post with what turned out to be the final opportunity of the first half, meaning Swindon took a single-goal advantage into the dressing rooms at the break.
No further changes were made before the restart and an early cross from Clifton was cleared after the ball was switched to the midfielder on the left.
Austin blasted a shot against the bar at the other end, before a long throw from Maher was eventually dealt with.
A Hutton cross was claimed by Crocombe, then the hosts were inches away from a second goal as Williams found Rushian Hepburn-Murphy inside the box. The striker prodded the ball past Crocombe but it bounced back off the post.
Austin saw a shot blocked as the Swindon pressure continued, before a ball into the box from Williams was volleyed clear by Glennon.
A shot from Ellis Iandolo was blocked and appeals from the home fans for handball were ignored by the referee, although he did show the yellow card to Clifton for a late challenge on Iandolo near the halfway line just after the hour mark. It turned out to be Iandolo’s last involvement as he was replaced by Lavinier.
And within a minute of coming off the bench, the substitute doubled his side’s advantage. Again, Hutton was the architect as his cross from the right fell perfectly for the unmarked LAVINIER, who hit a cushioned volley across goal and into the net off the far post.
Swindon then made sure of the points as they grabbed a quickfire third goal on 66 minutes. Hepburn-Murphy worked an opening inside the box and when Crocombe was unable to hold his shot, WILLIAMS followed up to tap the rebound into the net.
Town responded by winning a corner at the other end and Glennon’s delivery was punched away for another one by keeper Brynn. This time, the ball was played short from the flag but McAtee’s cross failed to pick out a team-mate.
Holohan was booked after a strong challenge, before Austin, Wakeling and Williams were replaced by Tyrese Shade, Luke Jephcott and Darcy as the hosts made a triple-substitution with 15 minutes to go. Town also made changes at the same time, with Hunt and Morris coming on for Green and McAtee.
Again, the home substitutions were quickly followed by a goal and again, it was a man coming off the bench who got on the scoresheet. Shade took the ball forward and slipped it through for DARCY, who seemed to mis-hit his shot but still saw it go into the net, off the near post.
A long throw from Maher was cleared as Town looked for a late consolation goal to give a fantastic away following something to cheer.
A free kick midway inside the Swindon half brought another chance to create danger but Glennon’s ball into the box was also cleared.
O’Neill, who had worked hard on his debut, was replaced by Orsi on 84 minutes but the Swindon goalscoring was not finished yet, as KHAN beat Smith and Efete on a run into the box, before rifling past Crocombe and into the roof of the net from a narrow angle on the left.
Five added minutes were played and Swindon almost had a sixth goal when Lavinier took aim but his strike took a deflection and Crocombe was able to dive on the ball before it crossed the line.
The referee’s whistle finally brought to an end what had been a tough afternoon for Town, who must now pick themselves up and regroup ahead of Saturday’s clash with Harrogate Town at Blundell Park.