Two of Grimsby Town’s transfer deadline day signings scored on their debuts as the Mariners recorded a comfortable victory on the road at Crewe Alexandra.
John McAtee broke the deadlock on three minutes, before George Lloyd marked a fine performance with a goal to put the Mariners in full control at half-time.
Town dominated for the majority of the contest against a home side who were looking to make it five games without defeat but offered little threat throughout.
And a first Grimsby win at Gresty Road since September 1990 was sealed when Tom Dickson-Peters came off the bench to grab a late third goal.
Lloyd and Josh Emmanuel came straight into Town’s starting line-up after joining on January 31 from Cheltenham Town and Hull City respectively, as Paul Hurst made four changes to the team that began the FA Cup draw at Luton Town last Saturday. McAtee and Danny Amos returned to the XI, as Andy Smith, Anthony Glennon, Gavan Holohan and Danilo Orsi all dropped to the bench.
Max Crocombe started in goal, with Michee Efete, Luke Waterfall and Niall Maher forming a centre-back trio as Emmanuel and Amos operated as wing-backs. Harry Clifton, Alex Hunt and Bryn Morris were the midfielders, with McAtee supporting Lloyd in attack.
Dickson-Peters, who also joined the club on the final day of the January transfer window with a loan move from Norwich City, was named among the substitutes alongside Glennon, Holohan, Smith, Orsi, Kieran Green and Mikey O’Neill.
Crewe came into the game looking to extend their four-match unbeaten start to 2023 following a 1-1 home draw with Stockport County on Tuesday. Manager Lee Bell made three changes to his starting line-up, while deadline day signing Sean Robertson was named on the bench after completing a loan switch from Forest Green Rovers.
Town started on the front foot and they were ahead within three minutes of the kick-off, as McATEE got the ball just inside the Crewe half and made ground down the left before unleashing a shot from 20 yards which flew past home keeper David Richards.
The hosts’ response saw David Amoo tripped as he looked to shoot from the edge of the penalty area. Callum Ainley’s resulting free kick went just wide of the near post.
Amoo was the main early threat for Crewe and he won the game’s first corner on 10 minutes, although Regan Griffiths’ ball from the flag was eventually gathered by Crocombe after it had been headed on.
A foul on Lloyd gave Town a free kick midway inside the Crewe half but the ball from it was cleared, although it eventually fell for Amos and he flashed a shot just wide from distance.
McAtee then did well to chase down a ball from Efete and get ahead of his man but he could not generate enough power on his first-time shot to beat Richards.
The visitors had been dominant in the early stages but there was an opening for the hosts on 16 minutes when Daniel Agyei linked up with Rio Adebisi down the left, although the left-back’s low cross failed to find a team-mate.
A foul by Maher gave Crewe a free kick on their right on 19 minutes but it caused no problems as the defender was in place to head Griffiths’ delivery clear.
Maher had to concede a corner two minutes later as the home side continued to grow into the game and the ball from the flag was headed behind by Efete for another one, this time on he opposite, right flank. Hunt was unable to clear the flag-kick but a follow-up shot was blocked.
A 25-yard strike by Clifton was blocked after Lloyd showed good strength to hold the ball up, then another chance fell for the midfielder after a run and cross by Emmanuel, although he could only fire over the bar from a shot on the turn.
Town did not have to wait much longer to double their advantage though, as one of the new boys opened his account. LLOYD got the ball on the left and drove towards the edge of the box, before drilling a low strike past Richards and into the far corner of the net.
A cross from Emmanuel was caught by the keeper as the Mariners went in search of a third goal, before a Crewe corner at the other end led to Adebisi heading harmlessly over the bar.
Lloyd sent an effort off-target after a flowing attack involving McAtee and Emmanuel, then Agyei won another corner for the hosts but again, it came to nothing as Town brought the ball clear.
A foul by Hunt gave Crewe another opportunity to get the ball into the penalty area but the free kick was well-defended.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and with no further chances coming for either side, the Mariners’ two-goal lead remained intact at the break.
Crewe made a triple-substitution before the restart, with Charlie Colkett, Ryan Finnigan and Robertson replacing Luke Offord, Conor Thomas and Billy Sass Davies.
Town created the first opening of the second half through McAtee on the right but after his low cross found Clifton, the midfielder could only fire over the bar.
A cross from Emmanuel was headed away, before a foul on the wing-back brought a free kick on the right. Hunt’s ball into the box was not fully dealt with by Richards and the rebound fell for Waterfall, whose hooked shot was caught by the keeper.
Agyei won a corner for the home side on 56 minutes but when Colkett sent the ball across from the flag, the referee spotted an infringement and blew for a Town free kick.
Agyei shot at Crocombe under pressure from Efete, before the hosts made their final two changes on the hour as Lachlan Brook and Bassala Sambou replaced Ainley and Amoo.
A cross from Robertson was blocked by Amos to give Crewe a corner on the right, although Crocombe was first to the ball from the flag to punch it clear of danger.
Morris got back to make a good block as the home side aimed to reduce their deficit, before more good defending saw Maher deny Sambou when the attacker looked to be through on goal.
At the other end, Lloyd created a chance with a run into the box before Clifton took over but could not hit the target.
Emmanuel was brought down midway inside the Crewe half on 70 minutes, although Hunt’s free kick was punched clear by Richards.
Green and O’Neill replaced Hunt and McAtee in the away side’s first two changes on 72 minutes and seconds after coming on, Green was shown the first yellow card of the game for a foul near the halfway line.
Town won a corner on the right soon afterwards but they were unable to profit from it, then O’Neill did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the box and play a ball through for Amos, who could only hit the side-netting from a narrow angle.
Dickson-Peters replaced Lloyd with 14 minutes to go and his first involvement was to flick a header into the path of Clifton, although he was beaten to the ball by Richards.
A Crewe corner from the right was dealt with, before the Mariners made absolutely sure of the three points as they grabbed a third goal. Clifton’s ball from the right was sent back across goal by Amos and DICKSON-PETERS was in the right place to steer it into the net.
Glennon replaced Clifton with two minutes remaining and the Mariners saw out what was left of the game, including three added minutes, to seal a clean sheet to go with their three points as reward for an excellent afternoon’s work.
Thoughts can now turn back to the FA Cup and Tuesday’s fourth round replay against Luton Town at Blundell Park.