Match Report | Walsall 1 – 2 Grimsby Town

Harry Clifton’s late double saw Grimsby Town come from behind to beat Walsall at the Bescot Stadium.

The hosts made a fast start and they took the lead through Danny Johnson’s seventh goal of the season after just five minutes.

After recovering from going a goal down and coming into the game, the Mariners went on to dominate possession, although they initially struggled to break down the home defence or test goalkeeper Owen Evans.

But the spirit and never-say-die attitude in the squad was in evidence yet again as they kept going and as the second half went on, the tide started to turn.

The Town pressure was rewarded when Clifton equalised on 77 minutes and five minutes later, he added a second to ensure all three points would be going back to North East Lincolnshire.

Andy Smith, Anthony Glennon and Ryan Taylor came back into the Grimsby team as manager Paul Hurst made three changes to his starting XI following the Carabao Cup defeat by Nottingham Forest in midweek.  Jordan Cropper, Brendan Kiernan and Aribim Pepple were the ones to miss out, with Walsall loanee Kiernan unable to play against his parent club.

Max Crocombe started in goal, with Michee Efete, Luke Waterfall, Smith and Danny Amos forming the defence.  Clifton, Kieran Green, Gavan Holohan, Bryn Morris and Glennon were the midfielders, with Ryan Taylor leading the line in attack.

The substitutes were Ollie Battersby, Shaun Pearson, Evan Khouri, Jordan Maguire-Drew, Stephen Wearne, Pepple and Danilo Orsi.

Walsall sat ninth in the table on eight points at kick-off, three points ahead of the 16th placed Mariners.

They were looking to leading scorer Johnson to add to his tally, while former Town loanee Brandon Comley was a familiar face in the home line-up.

An early shot by Johnson was parried by Crocombe into the path of Liam Bennett but after chesting the ball down, the winger fired wide of the near post.

The next time the hosts attacked, they opened the scoring.  Bennett, who had been lively in the opening exchanges, cut inside before playing the ball wide for Tom Knowles.  He then sent a low cross over for JOHNSON, who found the bottom-left corner with a neat finish from eight yards.

Comley fizzed a cross over from the right which took a deflection and went out for a throw-in as Walsall’s strong start continued.

Knowles then tried his luck from distance with Crocombe off his line but the attacker’s shot lacked direction and bounced out for a goal kick.

Town were yet to make an impression as the 10-minute mark approached, until Clifton connected with a far-post header which called keeper Evans into action for the first time as he got down to stop it.

A foul by Amos gave Walsall a free kick inside the Grimsby half but it caused no problems as a cross from Taylor Allen was comfortably caught by Crocombe.

Morris brought Liam Kinsella down in a dangerous position after good pressing by the hosts had led to Efete losing possession but Knowles’ 25-yard shot from the free kick went straight at Crocombe.

A long throw from Knowles was cleared by Morris and the midfielder launched a counter-attack which led to Glennon crossing from the left.  The ball was kept in at the far post by Holohan but nobody in a blue shirt was there to meet it.

Morris tried a shot from distance after getting the ball from a throw-in but his strike was blocked.

A trip on Holohan then earned Johnson the first yellow card of the game on 22 minutes, although the Mariners were unable to cause any damage from the free kick as the flag went up for offside.

After Walsall’s fast start, the visitors had started to come into the game and were now seeing more of the ball.

It was the hosts who created the next chance on 25 minutes though, after Morris lost possession in midfield.  Jack Earing broke through the middle before passing to Knowles but good defending by Smith saw the Hull City loanee do enough to put the striker off and ensure his strike from the edge of the penalty area went wide.

A stoppage came when Knowles went down with an injury but he was passed fit to continue after receiving treatment and soon after play restarted, he cut in from the right and fired a 20-yard shot which Crocombe tipped over the bar for a corner.  From the flag, the ball broke for Comley and he lifted it over the bar from the edge of the box.

Good play by Morris on 37 minutes saw him make progress through the middle before finding Glennon on the left.  He then sent a low cross over but Evans got down to stop the ball.

At the other end, Crocombe got to a cross from Bennett ahead of Johnson, before Clifton won a throw-in on the right as the half moved into two added minutes.  It led to Efete crossing but defender Donervon Daniels got the ball clear.

That meant Town remained behind at the break, with Johnson’s early goal still the difference between the two sides.

Wearne replaced Green before the restart as Clifton moved into the centre of midfield and the away side had the first opportunity of the second half as a shot by Amos was inadvertently blocked by Clifton.

Glennon needed some treatment after going down with an injury on 55 minutes, then a Walsall free kick from the right was headed wide by Daniels under pressure from Waterfall.

Another stoppage came when Daniels picked up an injury and this time, the hosts were forced into a change as the defender was replaced by Hayden White.

Pepple replaced Amos on 65 minutes as Town changed their shape to go with two strikers.

Soon afterwards, Clifton sent a low, first-time shot wide of the target from 20 yards, then Town boss Hurst was shown the yellow card after leaving his technical area.

As they had done in the latter part of the first half, the visitors were dominating possession without seriously testing Evans in the Walsall goal.

The hosts will feel they should have doubled their advantage on 68 minutes, as Knowles ran onto a crossfield ball and when Smith slipped, the striker was left with a clear route through to goal.  He could not apply a finish though, as Crocombe came to Town’s rescue and blocked the shot with his legs for a corner.

A Mariners break brought a corner at the other end soon afterwards but Glennon’s delivery from the right flag was headed away at the far post.

The game was now moving from end to end at pace and Wearne did well to keep the ball in play near the corner flag but when it was sent into the box, Evans got to it first.

Andy Williams replaced Earing for Walsall with 15 minutes to go as they looked to see the rest of the game out.

But two minutes later, the Mariners were level.  Pepple beat the offisde trap to get onto a ball from Taylor down the right and he went on to send a low cross over for CLIFTON, whose delicate finish beat Evans and found the bottom corner of the net in front of the 807 travelling fans.

The home side’s response saw them win a corner when a long-range shot was deflected behind.  The flag-kick was cut out for another one by Clifton but this time, the ball was headed over the bar for a goal kick.

Orsi replaced Taylor on 81 minutes and the substitute was involved as the Mariners completed the turnaround a minute later.  Glennon took the ball into the box and when Ori’s shot was blocked, it fell for CLIFTON to sweep home his second goal of the game and make it 2-1.

Pepple won a corner as Town continued to attack but Glennon’s ball was headed clear.  The Mariners kept possession and another cross from Glennon was headed away from danger.

Walsall boss Michael Flynn made a triple-substitution with three minutes to go in a bid to get back into the game, with Timmy Abraham replacing Allen as Knowles and Comley also went off to be replaced by Ronan Maher and Isaac Hutchinson.

A home penalty appeal was waved away by the referee after Johnson went down inside the box just before the game moved into five added minutes.

There was a free kick in a dangerous position when Maher was brought down by Efete but the substitute’s chipped delivery was claimed by Crocombe.

A cross from Bennett on the left was punched clear by Crocombe, then an attempt by Abraham was blocked after the ball was lofted back into the box.

Walsall were throwing everything at Town as they aimed to rescue a point and Pepple was booked for preventing Evans from making a clearance.

But the Mariners’ defence held firm and the referee’s final whistle brought celebrations on the pitch and in the away end as they sealed a second league win of the season.

Town are on the road again on Tuesday, when they travel to Derby County for the first of their Papa John’s Trophy group matches.


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