A double from Jordan Cook and a late Mickey Demetriou own goal saw Grimsby Town leapfrog Newport County AFC in the League Two table thanks to a 3-0 victory at Blundell Park.
County started brightly but couldn’t convert early dominance into goals, against the run of play Cook opened the scoring with a neat finish from the edge of the area on 17 minutes then Wes Thomas saw his penalty saved in stoppage time of the first-half by Nick Townsend.
Cook put an end to any fears from a Grimsby perspective that they would rue that missed spot-kick with a deflected second on 56 minutes, and the gloss was added to the victory when Demetriou diverted a Martyn Woolford cross-shot into his own net whilst attempting to stop it reaching Mariners substitute Kristian Dennis.
The result sees County slip one place in the League Two table to 14th as the gap on the play-offs continue to rise and it’s currently ten points with a game in hand for the Exiles.
With the games continuing to come thick and fast, Mike Flynn decided this game was the opportunity to shuffle the pack a bit and made five changes to the side for the trip to Blundell Park.
Vashon Neufville came in for his Football League debut, Keanu Marsh-Brown started his first League Two fixture for the first time since the opening day of the season, with Matty Dolan and David Pipe also coming in to the team.
County made three signings on Thursday’s transfer deadline day but only one was involved in Lincolnshire, Ben Kennedy also started as part of the 4-2-3-1 formation, as strike duo Harry McKirdy and Ade Azeez didn’t make the matchday squad.
Padraig Amond, Dan Butler and Mark O’Brien all found themselves amongst the substitutes, with Scot Bennett and Robbie Willmott given the afternoon off.
Grimsby Town manager Michael Jolley also elected to make wholesale changes to his starting side and made three alterations from the side that beat MK Dons at home last weekend.
Defender Harry Davis missed out through suspension after being dismissed in that game, Joe Grayson dropped to the bench, alongside Andrew Fox leaving the club in the concluding days of the transfer window.
Captain and former Welsh international Danny Collins, Sebastian Ring and Reece Hall-Johnson all returned to a 3-4-1-2 formation.
The first-half was certainly one where both sides had their chances, but the home side seemed to show that little bit more clinicality in the final third and were able to turn their spell of dominance into a goal.
It was County who started life the better in Lincolnshire, putting together some neat passages of play early on, deadline day signing Ben Kennedy impressing with some clever passes, but County were finding Sam Russell in inspired form.
The absence of number one goalkeeper James McKeown through his own suspension appeared to be a positive pre-match but Russell was more than an adequate replacement and he repelled Keanu Marsh-Brown inside six minutes.
Four minutes later, County almost worked another exquisitely perfected corner but Ludvig Ohman blocked Marsh-Brown’s effort, Kennedy followed it up but again Russell repelled the attempt with a reflex save.
Grimsby grew into the contest from there, everything coming through the architect of Martyn Woolford, and Jordan Cook’s stinging drive from distance should have been a warning side for the County defence to pick up the Grimsby attacker.
But they couldn’t stop the trickery of the attacker on 17 minutes when he dazzled his way past two challenges on the edge-of-the-area, turning inside the area and burying the ball into the bottom left corner for the opening goal of the contest.
That started a sustained spell of pressure for the Mariners as they looked for more, Woolford twice shot from distance around the half hour mark but saw the first saved by Townsend at the second attempt, then narrowly miss the far post on the angle.
Kennedy again saw a shot saved by Russell in a breakaway attack from County towards the end of the first-half but Grimsby concluded it on the front foot and should have doubled their advantage in the solitary minute of additional time.
Marsh-Brown needlessly hauled down the Mariners goal scorer inside the penalty area but Townsend came to his rescue when holding Wes Thomas’ penalty, going to his left to make his first penalty save of the season.
It didn’t get any easier for the Exiles after the break as Grimsby continued to assert their authority at Blundell Park.
Woolford saw another smart attempt saved well by Townsend, Thomas also came close from a Reece Hall-Johnson cutback, but County were powerless to prevent the second on 56 minutes.
More menacing work from Hall-Johnson on the right saw his skip past Neufville with a surging run, drilling the ball back to the edge of the area for Cook to get his second via a deflection which wrongfooted County goalkeeper Townsend.
County’s response was this time much better, but they still couldn’t find a way back into the contest – Matt agonisingly denied a goal against the club he played on loan for last season when Collins hooked his header off the goal line.
Still Grimsby had a presence in the game, however, and County just couldn’t cope with the Mariners from set pieces, Collins saw two headers held by Townsend and Thomas wasn’t too far away with his own attempt.
On came the Exiles replacements, Josh Sheehan almost halving the deficit with a header, but the afternoon got worse for the side as Grimsby found their third with eight minutes to go.
Harry Clifton superbly turned the returning Andrew Crofts near the centre-circle to get some space advancing forward, he fed Woolford whose cross-shot was in-avertedly turned into his own goal by Mickey Demetriou when initially attempting to stop the ball reaching Grimsby debutant Kristian Dennis.
Sheehan shot wide from distance at the death as Grimsby saw out their comfortable victory with ease – an afternoon to forget for the Exiles in Lincolnshire.
Newport County AFC (4-2-3-1): Townsend, Pipe (C), Demetriou, Poole, Neufville, Bakinson (Crofts 80’), Dolan, Labadie (Sheehan 61’), Kennedy, Marsh-Brown (Amond 59’), Matt
Subs not used: Day, Butler, Forbes, O’Brien
Grimsby Town (3-4-1-2): Russell, Hall-Johnson (Whitmore 75’), Ohman, Collins, Hendrie, Hessenthaler, Embleton (Clifton 64’), Woolford, Ring, Cook, Thomas (Dennis 79’)
Subs not used: Welsh, Grayson, Cardwell, Vernam
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Attendance: 3,712 (78 AWAY)
Next up for County: Middlesbrough (5th February 2019) Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay - HOME