Massive win gives Mariners precious lifeline in their relegation battle
MUCH-NEEDED BOOST IN VICTORY OVER BOLTON
GRIMSBY Town claimed a massive three points in their battle against relegation as they beat promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at Blundell Park.
Goals from Jay Matete and Ira Jackson Jr at either ends of the match saw the Mariners give their fading hopes a massive boost in a thrilling game in Cleethorpes.
Paul Hurst faced a big call in goal ahead of kick-off as he had to choose between James McKeown and the returning Jake Eastwood. It was the sight of a debutant though that caught the eye on the team-sheet as youth team midfielder Evan Khouri was handed his first league start.
As it turned out, Hurst elected to stick with his long-serving stopper as McKeown retained his place, while Harry Clifton and Lenell JohnLewis returned to the side in place of the banished Stefan Payne and Filipe Morais. Town knew they’d have to upset the odds if they were to give their hopes a much-needed boost, and they made the perfect start in their efforts.
Just 35 seconds into the game, Matete went unchallenged as he worked his way into the penalty area before firing across goal.
It wasn’t the most powerful effort, but it was enough to catch Matt Gilks out and leave him static as the ball bobbled in at the far post to put Town ahead.
A breathless start to proceedings almost saw Bolton respond soon after, with Lloyd Isgrove’s ball across the face of goal finding George Thomason with the simple task of turning home, but he found McKeown in his way with a superb save to maintain the hosts’ lead. The visitors threatened again just moments later as Isgrove broke again before finding Oladapo Afolayan, who could only fire over as the game tilted from end to end.
Matete went close to adding a second as the ball ran to him on the edge of the area after James Hanson saw his header blocked from a corner, but Gilks fared much better on this occasion as he reacted just in time to turn the midfielder’s drive away.
The veteran goalkeeper hadn’t quite gained his composure though, and he was lucky to get away with a poor clearance shortly after as Hanson closed him down before his chip towards Matete just had a bit too much on it. Town began the second half just as they started the first as they lay siege to Bolton’s goal, with Gilks forced into four saves in quick succession from Hanson, John-Lewis, Khouri and Clifton.
The hosts came even closer to an all-important second as Hanson struck the crossbar after meeting the rebound from Clifton’s saved effort, with one or two question marks over whether the ball crossed the line after bouncing down from the woodwork.
It was then Bolton’s turn to go close as McKeown again had to produce a superb save as he flung himself across to deny Eoin Doyle from close range, before denying Isgrove shortly after.
Not to be outdone, Gilks then made his case for save of the match as he superbly tipped away John-Lewis’ effort after great work from Clifton down the right as the scoreline somehow remained 1-0.
Memories of all those late equalisers in recent weeks would no doubt have been running through the minds of Town fans as the clock ticked down – that was until Town found the second goal they’d been so desperately craving.
Clifton, who had done brilliantly covering any position he was needed in, broke down the right and squared the ball across goal to find the onrushing Jackson Jr, who initially almost tripped over the ball before regaining himself and poking the ball home to set the Mariners on their way to victory.
There was still time for a nervy finish as substitute Shaun Miller gave the visitors some belief with just seconds remaining, but Town managed to hang on as they breathed new life into the survival hopes - although Colchester’s win hours later knocked them back.