Fleet 3 Grimsby Town 1

Ebbsfleet United battered the Mariners into submission as their drive up the league table continued apace with this 10th point from five games – and the ever-improving Fleet move into 16th place as a result.

Liam Daish named an unchanged side from the one that beat Telford 2-0 on Saturday but any hopes his side might repeat that feat looked somewhat optimistic within 60 seconds of the kick-off.

Grimsby broke quickly upfield from the first whistle, Anthony Church spraying a pass wide to Michael Coulson and he hared down the wing, crossing low for former Stevenage striker Anthony Elding to strike home the opener.

And Fleet suffered double disappointment after missing a gilt-edged opportunity for an equaliser five minutes later when Joe Howe sprinted into a good position wide left and teed up the perfect cross for the unmarked Ricky Shakes who flashed his header over the gaping goal.

But on 14 minutes Fleet were back in it. Lee Ridley brought down Michael West outside the box and the Fleet starlet curled in a great free kick that skewed wickedly off Scott Garner, wrong-footing goalkeeper James McKeown in the process.

Grimsby enjoyed the better possession after that but when they caught sight of goal were woefully inaccurate in their attempts to hit it. Church ballooned one over on 16 minutes and Frankie Artus shot wide on three occasions when a little more composure might have troubled Preston Edwards.

Liam Hearn threatened to break through on 22 minutes but Paul Lorraine did brilliantly to recover and make a saving tackle. Four minutes after that good build-up play saw a high ball reach Calum Willock’s head and though the technique was good, the effort lacked power and was gathered by McKeown.

With two evenly matched sides threatening to cancel each other out, Fleet took the lead on 38 minutes. West did well to wriggle into space and fired a low effort just past the far post. It looked as if it was heading out but Tom Phipp recovered it, played it back across goal where West and Shakes were waiting and it was Shakes who made no mistake this time with a header.

It could have been 3-1 four minutes later when West’s corner got a touch from a Fleet boot only to be hacked off the line by Gary Silk. His clearance almost resulted in a goal at the other end as Grimsby raced upfield against an outnumbered Fleet back line but Church shot wide. And a later Grimsby free-kick just outside the box came to nothing to send the Fleet in ahead at half-time.

The home side came out looking purposeful after the break and should have extended their lead when Jamie Darvill surged forward with men in support and his cross to an unmarked West at the far post should have yielded more than the Fleet’s opening goalscorer miscontrolling it.

But Grimsby upped the pressure after that and Fleet were fortunate to survive a couple of corners and a number of useful balls into the box, with chances spurned yet again by wayward shooting, Coulson most guilty when he let fly from 10 yards out.

It was Coulson, however, who was causing most concern for the Fleet back line and twice he set up Hearn and Elding before a low cross to substitute Rob Eagle was only just gathered by Edwards at his near post.

Let off the hook, Fleet gathered themselves and on 74 minutes grabbed the breathing space they so needed. Shakes outpaced the Grimsby midfield on the break and fed Craig Stone who rather overhit a cross from the right. There looked little danger as McKeown reached for the ball but he inexplicably fumbled it into Willock’s path and he reacted to fire in his eighth goal of the campaign.

Grimsby showed little fight after that, though Edwards scooped up Bradley Wood’s low effort at the foot of the post and the final whistle gave Fleet another deserved three points – and more importantly their first back-to-back wins since last season’s play-offs.

TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Howe, Lorraine, Mambo, Marwa, West, Phipp, Shakes, Darvill (Simpemba 87), Willock. Subs not used: Welch, Ginty, Azeez, Stavrinou
Att: 1,143

Jamie Darvill won man of the match v Telford. Vote using drop-down menu for tonight’s star performer.

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