STOCKPORT COUNTY 4, GRIMSBY TOWN 0
Stockport County piled on the misery for Covid-19 ravaged Grimsby Town as they breezed into the fourth round of the Buildbase FA Trophy.
The tie, involving two teams on the fringes of the promotion play-off places in Vanarama National League, turned out to be a rout.
Two goals from Will Collar and once apiece for Ryan Croasdale and Ash Palmer produced a handsome margin of victory for Dave Challinor’s side to the delight of fans in a season’s low crowd of 2,753.
That contrasted sharply to the attendance of 6,452 when the two teams met at Edgeley Park in the league in August. The Saturday before Christmas is notoriously poor for crowds while the worsening pandemic also looked to have made an impact on the turnout.
The Mariners were sunk without trace even before a ball was kicked after a coronavirus outbreak had left them without 10 players and they could manage to field only four of their seven permitted substitutes.
It was an additional worry for Mariners’ manager Paul Hurst whose side’s form has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks.
They have lost eight of their last nine games in league and cup having suffered only one loss in their opening 13 matches of the campaign as they have slid from top to eighth place.
County, meanwhile, returned to winning ways in emphatic style after losing their last two matches, though one was a slender 1-0 defeat at League One leaders Rotherham in the Emirates FA Cup.
County piled on the troubles for the Mariners from the start and early on Paddy Madden was denied by a vital block by goalkeeper Max Crocombe.
The breakthrough came in the 12th minute when Grimsby were hunted down attempting to play the ball out from the back.
Alex Hunt was dispossessed by Croasdale who slipped as pass to Collar who fired home his second goal for the club.
After taking 16 matches to break his goal duck, the 24-year-old midfielder made it back-to-back efforts after he got off the mark last Saturday at Torquay United.
County had chances to increase their lead after Crocombe failed to control a back pass, but the keeper managed to spare his blushes by clearing the ball as it was about to trickle into the net.
Madden was then denied by a smart save by Crocombe before Collar set up Sam Minihan whose deflected shot beat the goalkeeper but was cleared off the line by Ryan Sears.
Collar, the former Brighton and Hamilton Academical player, was at the heart of most of County’s attacking moves.
And fittingly it was Collar who provided the assist for Croasdale to double the lead in the 42nd minute with as flick to release his team-mate who slotted home only his second goal of the campaign.
County came close to a third goal soon after the restart when, in the same move, Palmer’s header and Scott Hogan’s scissor kick were both cleared off the line.
Grimsby’s hopes of a comeback were dealt an almost certain fatal blow when their captain Lennell John-Lewis was sent off in the 53rd minute for an elbow to the head of Palmer. Referee Scott Oldham immediately brandished a red card.
County immediately made their extra man count as they added a third goal on the hour when Palmer found the net with a bullet far-post header from Ryan Rydel’s corner, his second goal of the season.
And they added a fourth goal in the 73rd minute when Collar scored his second. Substitute Tom Walker’s corner was cleared as far as Collar who rifled home a low drive from outside the box through a crowded goalmouth as he made it three in two games, having never found the net in his first 15 games for the club.