AFC Telford United slipped to a narrow defeat against much-fancied Grimsby Town at the New Bucks Head, although the hosts were probably worthy of at least a point after more than matching their opponents for long periods.
Telford actually started the better of the two sides and only an excellent one-handed save from Grimsby goalkeeper James McKeown stopped Steve Leslie’s deflected free-kick from finding the net on 4 minutes. Indeed, McKeown then saved his side again moments later when pushed away Kieron St Aimie’s strike after the forward had diverted Steve Jones’ cross towards goal.
Telford were stunned when Grimsby took the lead against the early run of play. Joe Colbeck, whose delivery from set-pieces was a threat all afternoon, whipped in a delicious free-kick to the back-post and Nathan Pond escaped his marker to nod into the gaping net from point-blank range on 12 minutes.
Scott Nielson should have done better when he fired over shortly afterwards for Grimsby after Kris Taylor’s pass had sold Phil Trainer short, but Telford had a deserved leveller on 21 minutes when Luke Hubbins’ cross from the right found Jones in the centre and the veteran calmly caressed the ball into the back of the net past the helpless McKeown.
It almost got even better for Telford when more excellent play from Hubbins on the right created a chance for St Aimie, but the Bucks’ top-scorer – returning to the fold after a three-game absence through suspension – appeared caught in two minds and the Mariners were able to scramble the ball away.
Derek Niven headed over another Colbeck centre on 29 minutes but it was still slightly harsh on Telford when they conceded a second goal shortly before the half-time interval. Again it was a set-piece which was Telford’s undoing, the Bucks not clearing and enabling Ian Miller to lash home a superb strike from fifteen yards on 39 minutes.
After an enterprising first-half in which the visitors were prepared to commit plenty of bodies forward, Grimsby seemed much more content to sit back and soak up Telford pressure in the second period. Jordan Rose’s fierce volley was comfortably saved by McKeown on 56 minutes as Telford pressed, although Anthony Elding should have done better at the other end when firing over from Colbeck’s pass.
With Grimsby content to defend their lead it was Telford who dominated territorially, but crucially the Bucks couldn’t quite forge the one clear-cut opportunity that may have been their way back into the game. Rose’s miscued strike went wide after a corner was only half-cleared and Jones shot wide before Rose then cleared the crossbar with a fizzing shot from fully forty yards.
Elding should have capitalised on a poor back-pass from Will Salmon in the dying minutes but could only prod wide of Ryan Young’s goal, and substitute James Spray nearly made the Mariners pay in the final minute but he couldn’t quite convert from close-range.
1. Ryan Young, 2. Will Salmon, 6. Richard Davies, 8. Phil Trainer (c), 10.Steve Jones, 11. Luke Hubbins, 16. Kieron St Aimie, 18. Steven Leslie, 19. Kris Taylor, 22. Jordan Rose, 27. Liam Chilvers.
Substitutes: 3. Ryan Valentine, 7. Nathan Rooney (for Davies, 46 minutes), 17. Jamie Spray (for Taylor, 75 minutes), 21. Jon Brown, 25. Joe Collister (GK).
13. James McKeown, 3. Aswad Thomas, 4. Derek Niven, 6. Ian Miller, 7. Joe Colbeck, 8. Craig Disley, 9. Anthony Elding, 19. Bradley Wood, 22. Nathan Pond, 24. Scott Neilson, 25. Ross Hannah.
Substitutes: 2. Sam Hatton, 11. Frankie Artus (for Neilson, 86 minutes), 12. Andy Cook (for Hannah, 80 minutes), 16. Simon Ford, 20. Dayle Southwell (for Elding, 90 minutes).
Referee: Mr Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).