Grimsby Town’s Easter programme started with a heavy home defeat as Hartlepool United hit four goals at Blundell Park to boost their bid to stay in Sky Bet League Two.
Midfielder Dan Kemp’s hat trick did the damage and Josh Umerah added a fourth as the visitors completed a league double over the Mariners after also winning the reverse fixture in October.
MK Dons loanee Kemp’s first goal of the afternoon gave Hartlepool a half-time lead but after a disappointing first-half display in front of a big Good Friday crowd, Town improved after the break and got themselves level through Michee Efete.
From there, it looked like the momentum had swung as the home side aimed to complete the turnaround. But three goals in eight minutes took the game away from them, as Kemp restored the visitors’ advantage from the penalty spot before completing his treble, with Umerah making sure that the points would be going back to the north-east.
The Grimsby line-up showed five changed from the XI that began the 3-2 defeat at Bradford City last time out, with Efete, Luke Waterfall, Danny Amos, Alex Hunt and Otis Khan all coming into the team as Josh Emmanuel, Anthony Glennon, Harry Clifton, John McAtee and Ryan Taylor all moved to the bench.
Max Crocombe kept up his ever-present record in the Town goal, with fit-again skipper Luke Waterfall returning at the heart of the back three alongside Andy Smith and Niall Maher. Efete and Amos were the wing-backs, with Gavan Holohan, Kieran Green and Hunt forming the midfield and Khan operating behind George Lloyd in attack.
Bryn Morris and Danilo Orsi joined Emmanuel, Glennon, Clifton, McAtee and Taylor among the home substitutes.
Hartlepool made the journey from County Durham desperate for three points to boost their fight against relegation to the National League, as John Askey’s side sat 23rd in the league table at kick-off but knew a win could take them out of the bottom two, depending on results elsewhere.
Askey would look to the likes of striker Umerah and Connor Jennings to cause problems for the Town defence, while Brendan Kiernan was named on the bench as he made a quick return to Blundell Park having spent the first half of the season with the Mariners on loan from Walsall.
An early Amos cross from the left was cleared, before a ball into the Town box from Kemp on the away right was also comfortably dealt with.
A foul on Waterfall gave the hosts free kick on four minutes and it led to a throw-in on the left, which was flicked on after Maher sent the ball into the box but it was eventually collected by Hartlepool goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk.
Jennings was caught offside from a free kick as the 10-minute mark passed without either side registering an attempt at goal and Khan became the first to go close as he followed up a blocked Efete shot with an effort which was deflected wide for a corner. The ball from the flag was played short and Holohan eventually shot from 25 yards but his attempt lacked the power needed to seriously test Stolarczyk.
Midfielder Callum Cooke was spoken to by the referee for preventing a Town free kick from being taken quickly, before a deep cross from Hunt dropped too far ahead of Amos at the far post.
The deadlock was broken on 20 minutes and it was the visitors who opened the scoring from their first chance of the game. Wing-back David Ferguson cut inside from the left and pulled the ball back for KEMP, who took a touch before rifling past Crocombe.
A cross from Nicky Featherstone was caught by Crocombe as the visitors immediately went in search of a second goal and after taking the lead, they looked comfortable as the Mariners struggled to respond at the other end.
A Maher throw on the half-hour was headed on by Waterfall but the ball bounced through to Stolarczyk, then Lloyd was caught offside to end Town’s next attack.
Hartlepool won a corner on their left on 37 minutes when a cross was headed behind but Lloyd was first to the low delivery from the flag to clear for a throw-in near the halfway line.
A free kick on the left gave the away side another opportunity to create danger, although they were not able to profit from it.
Waterfall and Hunt both saw shots blocked in quick succession after a Maher throw from the right was headed on inside the box, before a promising run from Khan set up another attack but Maher eventually shot at keeper Stolarczyk from a narrow angle on the left.
Town won a corner on their right and Hunt’s ball from the flag found Green but his header was blocked and the visitors cleared.
A foul on Umerah gave Hartlepool a free kick in a dangerous position as the half moved into one added minute but they were unable to turn it into a chance in front of goal.
That meant the away side went in with a one-goal advantage at the interval, with Town having work to do if they were to get anything from the game.
McAtee and Taylor replaced Holohan and Smith for the Mariners before the restart, with Taylor Foran coming on in place of Jamie Sterry for the visitors.
Hartlepool created the first opening of the second half as Jennings found Kemp on the right but his cross beat everybody and went out for a throw-in.
Ferguson played a low ball across the six-yard line as the away side came forward again but nobody in their blue and white shirts was in place to connect with it.
Town went close to an equaliser as a Maher throw-in caused chaos in the Hartlepool box and Hunt was among several players to see shots blocked before a McAtee cross was headed back towards goal but Stolarczyk pushed the ball away from danger.
Instead, the Mariners got themselves back on level terms on 54 minutes, as EFETE came forward and continued his run after Taylor’s flick-on, to meet a ball from Lloyd and calmly slot past the advancing keeper.
The goal brought the home crowd to life and Town pushed for a second, with Lloyd winning a corner on the right. Hunt’s delivery found Waterfall at the far post but the centre-back’s header back across goal dropped just wide.
A penalty appeal from the away fans was waved away after Umerah went down inside the box but the momentum was now with the Mariners and a flicked header from Taylor almost led to a chance for Khan, although Stolarczyk managed to get the ball clear.
Taylor won a free kick on the halfway line when he was pulled back by defender Euan Murray but after Amos found McAtee down the left, a cross by Khan was cleared.
Efete then fired just over the bar after showing some great skill to beat his man and cut inside from the right.
Wesley McDonald replaced Edon Pruti in Hartlepool’s second change on 65 minutes, before Lloyd ran onto a loose ball in midfield and played it through to McAtee, whose shot was blocked.
The momentum swung again soon afterwards though, as substitute McDonald’s first involvement of note saw him cut inside from the left and go down under a challenge from Efete just inside the penalty area. The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot and KEMP stepped up to send another emphatic finish past Crocombe from 12 yards and put the away side back into the lead.
And with 19 minutes to go, Kemp completed his hat-trick as the visitors stretched their advantage. McDonald cut inside from the left and when his ball found KEMP inside the box, he arrowed a shot into the bottom-right corner of the net.
Hartlepool went on to make absolutely sure of the points when they grabbed a fourth goal with 16 minutes still to play. UMERAH took advantage of a slip in midfield to race clear and despite the best efforts of Hunt to get back and put challenge in, the striker retained possession and rounded Crocombe before slotting into the net from a narrow angle.
The goal proved to be the cue for a sizeable number of fans to stream out of the ground from the home sections of Blundell Park, as the celebrations continued among the 1,182 travelling Hartlepool supporters.
Morris replaced Green after the goal and Town went forward in search of an unlikely route back into the contest, albeit without troubling Stolarczyk.
Taylor was shown the yellow card for a foul as he challenged for the ball in the air, before Kemp and Umerah were replaced by Oliver Finney and Tom Crawford as the away side made a double-substitution on 87 minutes.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the game, with Hunt sending a 25-yard effort well over the bar as the Mariners looked for a late consolation goal.
That proved to be Town’s final opportunity to reduce the deficit and they will now have their full focus on bouncing back when they make the short trip to Doncaster Rovers on Easter Monday.