Grimsby Town’s U18s hit four goals as they marched into the second round of the FA Youth Cup with a comfortable victory over Walsall at Blundell Park.
The visitors had the better of the early stages but the Young Mariners came to life midway through the first half and took the lead through Louis Boyd’s close-range finish.
Harry Milner provided the cross for the opening goal and he went on to get Town’s second on 36 minutes, calmly slotting home after a great pass from Brook Dennis.
A Will Hodgson penalty eight minutes after the break extended the advantage, before Milner made it 4-0 with his second goal of the game.
Neil Woods’ side were looking to bounce back after a 3-0 away defeat at Doncaster Rovers in the EFL Youth Alliance league on Saturday and show the form which currently sees them level on points with Lincoln City at the top of its North-East division.
Walsall came into the game second from bottom of the alliance’s North-West division, with one win, one draw and seven defeats in the league so far this campaign.
The away side had the first opportunity to get the ball into the penalty area after a foul on Ronan Maher near the halfway line but the free kick was dealt with as Boyd got the ball away from danger.
At the other end, a Tom Zerboni cross from the left went out for a goal kick, before Maher was dragged back again to give the Saddlers another free kick, which was headed clear by Harry Thorpe.
Jack Shaw curled a shot just wide for the visitors from 20 yards on 11 minutes, then Arjun Toor got in behind the Town defence to flick the ball past keeper Dec Dennis, although a good recovery block kept the striker out.
Zerboni saw a shot blocked soon afterwards but Walsall had made the stronger start and they won the first corner on 14 minutes. Thorpe got to the ball from the flag first to head clear but the visitors retained possession until Callum Storr could finally bring the danger to an end.
Another away corner came six minutes later and this time, Dennis had to make a good save to deny Dan Baldwin, whose header looked to be bouncing towards the net.
Town were yet to show themselves as an attacking force but when their first chance came on 24 minutes, they made it count. Milner got away from his man down the right and sent a low ball across the six-yard line, where BOYD was on-hand to apply the finish.
Milner was involved again moments later as he let fly from 25 yards but this time, Walsall keeper Jenson Kilroy got down to make a comfortable stop.
Maher fired just over the bar as the visitors looked to respond to going behind against the run of play, before Marvellous Onabirekhanlen also lifted a shot over the target.
The Town keeper then got down to make an excellent block with his feet from a Maher volley as the away side kept looking for an equaliser.
But when the second goal came on 36 minutes, it was the Young Mariners who doubled their advantage in clinical fashion. Striker Brook Dennis looked up and played a perfect low ball into the path of MILNER, who raced clear through the middle and kept his composure to beat Kilroy and make it 2-0.
A stoppage came when Walsall captain Baldwin went down with an injury but he was passed fit to continue after receiving treatment.
Rio Sawyers saw a low effort blocked by Dec Dennis at his near post for a corner three minutes before the break, then a corner came at the other end after a floated ball over the top from midfielder Will Hodgson found its way through to Brook Dennis.
Boyd’s delivery from the flag was touched away for a throw-in and that led to Zerboni winning another corner as the half moved into two added minutes. Town’s spell of pressure continued with a third flag-kick in quick succession but they could not make it count as Boyd hit the side-netting with a shot after the ball had been played short.
Nevertheless, the hosts went in at the interval with a commanding lead after initially being forced to soak up pressure.
Jonas Mukuna replaced Toor for Walsall before the restart and the first opening of the second half was created by Milner as he cut into the box from the right, although he was unable to keep the ball under control.
Nice link-up play between Storr and Milner led to another opening down the home right but the winger’s cross was headed clear.
Town’s bright start to the half was rewarded with a third goal seven minutes in, as defender Noel Angafor was adjudged to have blocked a Milner shot with his arm. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and HODGSON stepped up to send Kilroy the wrong way.
A free kick midway inside the Grimsby half gave the away side an opportunity to respond but after the ball was played into the box and headed on, Dec Dennis dived on it.
Another away free kick was cleared by Henry Moore, before Thorpe was in the right place to make a block from Maher after Mukuna had played a low ball across from the left.
Shakeel Brown dragged a low shot wide on the hour after good play by Boyd to cut inside from the right, before the winger had a chance to make it 4-0 after an attempted clearance from Kilroy went straight to Brook Dennis. The striker passed to Boyd inside the box but he could only fire wide.
The away side made a double-substitution on 65 minutes as Samin Servari came on for Charlie Ward and Antonio Cristofaro replaced Dylan Thomas.
Mukuna created a chance for himself soon afterwards as he cut inside from the left but his shot from 20 yards was comfortably stopped by keeper Dennis.
Boyd had another opportunity for Town after the ball was touched back to him by Dennis but his shot lacked the power needed to beat Kilroy.
But the fourth goal was not much longer in coming, as MILNER made his way into the box from the right and sent a low finish past the keeper and into the far corner of the net.
Walsall were still pushing for what now would be little more than a consolation goal and Onabirekhanlen had a chance on 73 minutes but his shot was straight at the Grimsby keeper.
A Town penalty appeal was waved away when Milner went down under a challenge inside the box on 77 minutes, before a quick break led to Dec Dennis making another good save as he pushed a curling strike by Mukuna behind for a corner.
Henry Burt replaced Hodgson in the centre of the home midfield with nine minutes to go and a foul on Brown gave the Young Mariners a free kick in a dangerous position near the left edge of the penalty area three minutes later. Brown’s ball from it took a deflection for a corner, which was played short and led to a throw-in.
Four added minutes were played at the end of the game and in the first of them, Dec Dennis made another great save to deny Maher and preserve his clean sheet.
Cameron Gardner replaced Brook Dennis for the closing stages, with Charlie Clements then following him onto the pitch as he replaced Brown.
Town then saw out the remainder of the contest to seal an impressive victory and claim their place in the draw for round two.
Their focus now switches to another cup tie, as they travel to Fleetwood Town for an EFL Youth Alliance Cup group match on Saturday.