Hatters left all at sea by lethal Mariners

Blue Square Bet Premier: Grimsby Town 4 (3) Luton Town 1 (0)

Shell-shocked Luton were destroyed 4-1 by buoyant Grimsby in front of the Premier TV cameras at Blundell Park tonight, writes Mark Wood.

Lethal Grimsby led 3-0 at the break and rammed home their advantage after the interval as they twice hit the woodwork in a game they dominated from start to finish. In fact it was the most goals Luton have conceded during their four years in the Conference.

Striker Scott Rendell looked Luton’s most likely source of goals and, after twice being thwarted by keeper James McKeown, finally got his reward as he bundled home a late consolation on a night to forget for the Hatters.

After asserting injuries would force changes at yesterday’s press conference, Town boss Paul Buckle somewhat surprisingly named an unchanged team for tonight’s encounter at Blundell Park.

No sooner did the game get under way than the heavens opened. An entertaining start saw Dean Beckwith lucky to escape giving away a free-kick and receiving a book when a wild challenge thankfully failed to find its mark.

But it was Town who created the first real opening on six minutes when Stuart Fleetwood slipped Rendell through and his clever effort just went wide of the far post.

Grimsby though took the lead moments later though when Ross Hannah headed a dangerous cross back across goal and, although Mark Tyler pulled off a great save to deny Andy Cook’s close-range effort, the ball broke kindly for Joe Colbeck to slot into the unguarded net.

Derek Niven fired an opportunistic effort well wide as the Mariners continued to make a bright start, while lovely build-up play from the Hatters eventually ended in JJ O’Donnell curling narrowly over the bar on 18 minutes.

Fleetwood cut inside from the left but stroked tamely at McKeown midway through the half before only a great save from the keeper rescued the Mariners on 34 minutes. Jon Shaw’s cross flicked off Aswad Thomas’ head and Rendell’s far post header was brilliantly turned over the bar by McKeown.

However, the Mariners doubled their lead five minutes before the break when impressive left-back Thomas again broke clear and delivered a delicious ball into the box. Nathan Pond’s header thundered back off the bar and Cook’s stooping header somehow dribbled into the net.

Luton threatened from a corner but Grimsby took exception to Andre Gray’s efforts and Shaun Pearson somehow went unpunished despite pushing the striker in the chest several times.

And things went from bad to worse for Luton as the Mariners made it 3-0 two minutes before the break as Dean Beckwith failed to deal with a through ball and Hannah nipped in to steer the ball past Tyler.

A ball into the box fell for Gray on the stroke of half time but he could only lash over and Tyler had to be aware to grasp Pond’s acrobatic overhead effort from Thomas’ cross as a wretched half drew to a close for the Hatters.

Connor Essam replaced Janos Kovacs at the break as the Mariners started the second half on the front foot with on-loan Crawley winger, Scott Neilson, making his debut, lashing over.

An Alex Lawless corner found Jake Howells at the far post, but his effort was deflected over and, from the subsequent corner Town should have scored. Lawless’ delivery found Rendell at the far post on 52 minutes but McKeown somehow clawed his effort on the stretch away.

Yaser Kasim replaced captain Ronnie Henry on 57 minutes as Luton altered to a 4-4-2 formation with Fleetwood and Gray on either wing.

Neilson surged forward on the hour and fed Colbeck whose effort was pushed away by Tyler with Cook unable to turn home the rebound.

Hannah saw an effort deflected behind before Luton made their final change on 65 minutes, bringing on Jake Robinson for Fleetwood.

The Mariners rattled the woodwork again on 66 minutes, Cook’s looping header smacking the underside of the bar and bouncing out, while at the other end Gray was unable to divert Howells’ corner from six yards out.

Town wasted another great chance on 67 minutes when Beckwith’s raking pass was perfect for

Rendell and he laid the ball into the path of Shaw, who took a touch, before then seeing his shot blocked.

And Grimsby made it 4-0 on 70 minutes when Badley Wood’s bombed a free-kick into the box and the hapless Beckwith’s header looped past Tyler and in.

Fortune finally favoured Town on 76-minutes when Howells’ drilled effort was fumbled McKeown and Rendell was on hand to bundle home the ball.

And he almost got a second in the space of a minute when Kasim’s challenge rebounded to him and his shot on the turn was just about kept out by the keeper.

Pearson’s header from a deep free-kick then caused consternation in the box as Town were just able to clear it behind.

Colbeck’s piercing run ended in him drawing a save from Tyler, while Robinson responded in kind, driving through the middle before seeing his 84th-minute effort bounce just wide.

Rendell saw another late effort deflected behind, before substitute Dayle Southwell outpaced Lawless on 89 minutes and drew another good save from Tyler as O’Donnell bravely cleared, while Kasim danced into the box at the other end but saw his shot blocked behind for yet another corner.

As the game petered out O’Donnell fired a late effort wide as Town endured another sorry night at a venue they rarely do well at.

Mariners (4-4-2): James McKeown, Aswad Thomas, Derek Niven, Shaun Pearson, Joe Colbeck, Craig Disley (C), Andy Cook, Bradley Wood, Nathan Pond, Scott Neilson (Frankie Artus 73), Ross Hannah (Dayle Southwell 81). Substitutes not used: Sam Hatton, Ian Miller, Anthony Elding.

Hatters (4-3-3): Mark Tyler, Dean Beckwith, Janos Kovacs (Connor Essam 46), Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell, Jake Howells, Stuart Fleetwood (Jake Robinson 65), JJ O’Donnell, Ronnie Henry (C, Yaser Kasim 57), Andre Gray. Substitutes not used: Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Dan Walker.

Bookings: Disley 26.

Referee: P Banks.

Assistant Referees: A Miller and S Campbell.

Fourth Official: A Tankard.

Attendance: 4,074 (125 Luton).

Star Hatter: Scott Rendell. Was by far the Hatters’ biggest threat.