REPORT | Mariners delight under the lights

Justin Obikwu’s second goal in as many games gave Grimsby Town an impressive home victory over promotion-chasing Milton Keynes Dons.

The visitors controlled possession for long periods at Blundell Park but after the Coventry City loanee gave the Mariners the advantage, a disciplined and resolute defensive display earned all three points.

Town had an opportunity to double their lead in first-half stoppage time but Gavan Holohan’s penalty was saved by Dons goalkeeper Michael Kelly.

The hosts came under pressure in the second half but they defended superbly to ensure Harvey Cartwright was never seriously tested in goal and a hardworking display got its reward.

Two changes were made to the Grimsby starting XI following the weekend draw at Sutton United, with Arthur Gnahoua and Abo Eisa coming in for Kieran Green and Danny Rose.

Cartwright lined up behind a defence of Toby Mullarkey, Doug Tharme and Harvey Rodgers, with Harry Clifton and Denver Hume again operating as wing-backs.  Holohan wore the captain’s armband as he joined Curtis Thompson and Gnahoua in midfield, while Eisa supported Obikwu in attack.

Green was named on the bench, along with Jake Eastwood, Liam Smith, Rekeil Pyke, Harry Wood, Jamie Andrews and Donovan Wilson.

MK Dons made the trip north looking to continue an excellent run of form which had taken them to within two points of Sky Bet League Two’s automatic promotion places.

Mike Williamson’s side sat fourth in the table at kick-off and would be hoping to break into the top three with a win.

The visitors were looking to keep possession in the early stages but Town had the first opening when Eisa ran onto a loose ball midway inside the Dons’ half, although he was unable to capitalise.

A quickly-taken free kick from Hume led to a chance for Obikwu soon afterwards and his shot called keeper Kelly into action for the first time.  The resulting corner was headed behind for another one, which led to a goal kick.

A cross at the other end was headed off-target by striker Ellis Harrison, before Gnahoua was shown the first yellow card of the game for a trip.

Good defending by Tharme twice stopped Harrison at the edge of the penalty area, then Mullarkey was booked for bringing the striker down on the away left.  Jack Payne’s free kick was pushed away from goal by Cartwright and a low follow-up effort by Dan Kemp from the right rolled just wide of the far post.

An Alex Gilbey strike was deflected away for a corner on 20 minutes but the delivery from the flag was headed clear.  The Dons kept possession and worked the ball out to Kemp on the right, although his powerful cross-shot flew out for a goal kick.

Wearne showed great skill to work an opening on the left for a cross but his delivery failed to pick out a team-mate in front of goal, then as the visitors continued to probe, Cartwright had to react quickly to clear a back-pass ahead of Harrison.

Neither keeper had been seriously tested as the half-hour mark passed but soon afterwards, the Mariners opened the scoring.  A low ball into the box from Mullarkey on the right was turned back across goal by Eisa for OBIKWU to finish from 10 yards.

A Payne cross came off Harrison’s back under pressure from Tharme and went out for a goal kick as the away side looked to respond to falling behind, with Kyran Lofthouse going on to win a corner in a challenge with Hume.  The flag-kick was headed clear by Holohan.

The Dons were controlling possession but a disciplined defensive effort by Town ensured they were not getting the ball into dangerous areas of the pitch as half-time loomed.

Holohan was booked for a late challenge on Harrison on 44 minutes but the away side were not able to make the most of the resulting free kick.

One added minute was played at the end of the first half and Town were gifted an opportunity to double their advantage when Obikwu was brought down by keeper Kelly inside the box.  The referee pointed to the spot but Holohan’s penalty was saved and the home side’s lead remained at a single goal going into the break.


No changes were made before the restart and the away side had the first opening of the second half on their left but a great challenge by Clifton on Alex Gilbey got the ball away for a corner.  The delivery from the flag was headed wide by Harrison.

Clifton was involved again to block Harrison at the edge of the box on 51 minutes, with the Mariners getting men behind the ball to soak up the away pressure.

Wearne won another corner but Tharme was in the right place to clear it, then a good chance fell for Gilbey inside the box but his strike was cleared off the line by Tharme.

A Town break through Eisa on the left was stopped, before a foul on Tharme was spotted as Wearne chipped a cross towards Harrison.

Emre Tezgel and Matthew Dennis replaced Kemp and Harrison for the visitors as they made the first substitutions of the evening on 58 minutes.

Town responded with a double-change of their own, sending Wood and Andrews on in place of Gnahoua and Eisa.

The hosts created an opportunity when Wood won the ball in midfield and played it through for Obikwu but he was unable to work an opening for a shot at the edge of the box.

A Hume cross from the left was just too far ahead of Obikwu as Town went forward again, before more Dons pressure was well-absorbed by the Mariners defence.

Green replaced Holohan on 72 minutes, then Hume was booked for a late challenge on Lofthouse on the away right.  The free kick was headed clear by Green.

Daniel Harvie escaped a yellow card for a foul on Hume, before a cross from Harvie was headed away and a return ball into the box from the opposite flank was blocked for a corner.  The flag-kick beat everybody and went out for a Town throw-in.

Obikwu made way for Pyke in Grimsby’s latest change with 10 minutes to go and his first action was to hit a snap-shot from inside the box, which was blocked.  The rebound fell to Wood and he was inches away from making it 2-0 but could only watch his low strike bounce back off the post before being cleared to safety.

Gilbey met a cross from the right but could not direct his header towards goal as the away side kept looking for an equaliser with two minutes remaining.

Thompson was booked as the game moved into a minimum of four added minutes and the Mariners saw the remainder of the contest out to seal a huge three points.

Town are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Gillingham.



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