ALTRINCHAM 2, GRIMSBY TOWN 3
National League leaders Grimsby Town were given a fright before strengthening their hold on top spot with victory at Altrincham.
It looked as though the Mariners had sunk Altrincham when they established a 3-0 lead with goals from Coventry City loanee Will Bapaga, Ryan Taylor and Harry Clifton to the delight of their 1,251 travelling army on a wet night at Moss Lane.
But it turned out to be far from a stroll after Grimsby goalscorer Bapaga was sent off just short of the hour in bizarre fashion.
The Robins, sixth in the table and with only two defeats, sensed a way back into the game and they quickly reduced the deficit to 3-2 through goals from Dan Mooney and Toby Mullarkey.
The Mariners, now with only one league loss in their opening 10 games, held their nerve late on as Altrincham, who had an impressive win at high-flying Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday, pressed to complete a great escape, substitute A-Jay Leitch-Smith coming closest in stoppage time when he forced a save from James McKeown.
Bapaga was a threat before he opened the scoring as a low, angled shot flashed past the upright.
The breakthrough came in the 27th minute of an opening period played at a lively tempo after a decent build-up.
The ball was played into the feet of Ryan Taylor who held it up well before releasing 18-year-old Bapaga who rifled a shot high into the roof of the net from seven yards.
Grimsby shaded the opening half with striker John McAtee having one gilt-edged chance to double the lead.
Harry Clifton’s cross from the left found McAtee free at the far post and his header was somehow kept out by goalkeeper Tony Thompson who managed to divert the effort wide for a corner.
Altrincham had a couple of decent goal attempts, the best falling to Mooney who cut in from the right and saw a shot clear the angle of upright and crossbar by inches.
Grimsby sealed victory by scoring two further goals in the opening nine minutes of the second period.
They doubled their advantage when Robins’ centre back Tom Hannigan was dispossessed.
Bapaga raced clear and his angled shot was well kept out by Thompson only for Taylor to slot home the rebound from a couple of yards, the fifth of the season for the 33-year-old former Rotherham, Bristol City, Portsmouth, Oxford, Plymouth and Newport County front man.
It was soon 3-0 when the home defence was carved open after an incisive passing move ended with Clifton shooting high into the roof of the net for his second of the season.
But the balance of play tilted Altrincham’s way just short of the hour when Bapaga was sent off for collecting a second booking, a bizarre one as he was cautioned for not retreating at a throw in after the ball was thrown into his face.
Altrincham made their extra player count as they reduced the deficit to 3-2 with 15 minutes left.
Mooney found the net with a terrific effort from 25 yards after a defensive clearance fell invitingly to him, his fourth of the season.
McAtee had two great chance to add a fourth Mariners goal on the break, both times well denied by Thompson.
Altrincham’s second came from Mullarkey as the centre back bundled home a corner at the far post following a melee, his second of the campaign.
The four minutes of stoppage time saw Smith-Leitch have the chance to make it 3-3 but the former Crewe winger was denied by McKeown.