Michee Efete and Donovan Wilson were on-target as Grimsby Town made it two pre-season wins out of two with a narrow victory over neighbours Cleethorpes Town.
In what was an excellent fitness exercise for both sides in front of a capacity crowd at the myenergi Stadium, the Mariners struck first through Efete’s header but the teams went in level at the break after Curtis Bateson’s equaliser.
Town created the majority of the chances after the interval but were forced to wait until seven minutes from time to get themselves ahead again, with Wilson grabbing what proved to be the winning goal.
Paul Hurst again named separate Grimsby XIs for each half, with Jake Eastwood starting in goal as Efete, Toby Mullarkey, Niall Maher and Danny Amos formed the defence for the opening 45 minutes. Harvey Tomlinson, Gavan Holohan, Kamil Conteh and Charles Vernam were the midfielders, with Edwin Essel alongside Danny Rose in attack.
Former Mariners fans’ favourite James McKeown was in goal for Cleethorpes, while the Owls also included Louis Boyd in their starting line-up after he made a move from Blundell Park earlier in the summer. Midfielder Danny Rose made it three former Town players in the home team.
The hosts had the first chance of the afternoon as a deflected Harry Lewis strike went through to Eastwood.
Town’s first opportunity to attack came on seven minutes, when Rose was brought down by AJ Adelakan to the left of the penalty area. Vernam sent the resulting free kick to the far post but Mullarkey could only divert it wide.
Vernam saw a shot blocked after making a run from the left, then a foul on the winger brought a free kick midway inside the Cleethorpes half. This time, it led to the opening goal as Vernam’s free kick was headed past McKeown by EFETE.
Town put a good move together on 26 minutes as Essel held the ball up for Vernam on the left. His low cross found Rose but the striker was flagged offside when his flick towards goal was saved by McKeown.
The keeper came off his line to deny Rose again seconds later and the pressure continued when the resulting corner eventually led to another one as Rose’s header was deflected wide.
Again, the danger from the flag was not cleared and a foul on Vernam gave Town a free kick in a central position. Vernam’s shot from it was pushed away from goal by McKeown and this time, a foul allowed the hosts to get the ball clear.
A free kick came at the other end just after the half-hour, giving the home side a rare opportunity to put pressure on the Town goal, but Rose’s ball from it was caught by Eastwood.
Another chance followed soon afterwards for Cleethorpes, although it was not taken as Bateson sent his low shot wide.
But the next time the Owls attacked, they were level. BATESON was sent clear through the middle and he made no mistake in slotting past the advancing Eastwood.
The Mariners immediately looked to regain the advantage and a nice flick by Essel sent Vernam clear down the left. He cut inside and beat Adelakan but his shot was deflected away from goal.
Efete won a corner on the right two minutes before the break and Holohan’s delivery from the flag was met by Maher but Rose was unable to get to the loose ball to turn it into the net and the hosts cleared.
That meant the scores remained level at half-time and a different Town XI came out after the restart, with youth team goalkeeper Will Mitchell behind a defence of Aaron Braithwaite, Luke Waterfall, Harvey Rodgers and Anthony Glennon. Abo Eisa, Alex Hunt, Kieran Green and Evan Khouri formed the midfield, with Wilson and Rekeil Pyke leading the attack.
Cleethorpes also made wholesale changes ahead of the second half, with only Jon Oglesby remaining from the starting XI.
Eisa sent a shot over the bar from distance after good play by Khouri as the visitors were first to attack, then a corner came after a flowing attack. Glennon’s ball from the left flag was headed over the bar by Pyke.
Eisa won a corner on the right on 55 minutes and after it was played short, the winger cut inside but saw his shot saved by goalkeeper Leigh Overton.
An attempt from Wilson was blocked, before Overton was called into action again to push a drive from Eisa away from danger.
A foul on Eisa gave the Mariners a free kick on the right but Rodgers’ header from Glennon’s far-post delivery was blocked and nobody could force the ball into the net.
Pyke saw a shot blocked after he met a low cross from Wilson, then Green was unable to get on the end of a Hunt free kick from the right as Town continued to attack.
Cleethorpes created a chance of their own when a free kick from the right was headed back across goal but nobody in the blue and black of the Owls was there to convert the opportunity.
At the other end, Eisa linked up well with Pyke but the striker’s low shot was well blocked by Overton at his near post.
Khouri was brought down on the left to give Town a free kick on 80 minutes but they were not able to test the keeper from it.
But the Mariners did eventually get themselves back in front three minutes later, as WILSON ran onto the ball and after holding off a defender, beat Overton with a low shot from inside the box.
That proved to be the end of the goalscoring and attention will now turn to next Saturday’s first home friendly of the summer, with Championship side Hull City the visitors to Blundell Park.