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29 January 2013

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Hatters out of the FA Trophy

Devitt 8, Cook 75, Marshall 78


After Saturday’s FA Cup heroics the Town couldn’t progress in the FA Trophy as they were beaten in the quarter-finals at Grimsby.

The Mariners took the lead in the eighth minute when Jamie Devitt’s wind-assisted free-kick sailed past Dean Brill and the Hatters defence.

Having enjoyed a bright spell towards the end of the first half the Town couldn’t find an equaliser and another free-kick 15 from time – this time from Andy Cook – made it 2-0.

That sucker punch was followed three minutes later when a Marcus Marshall effort was deflected past Brill to ensure the Mariners’ progressed to the last four.

Saturday's goal hero at Carrow Road Scott Rendell was one of four changes made by Paul Buckle from the victory at Norwich. There were also starts for Brill, JJ O'Donnell and Stuart Fleetwood.

On a blustery evening at Blundell Park the hosts, also fielding a strong side, nosed in front on eight minutes. Janos Kovacs was harshly penalised 22 yards out and, from the resultant free-kick, Mariners’ winger Devitt’s cross caught in the wind and arched over everyone past Brill in the Town goal.

Hurt, the Hatters were almost level two minutes later with a free-kick of their own when Fleetwood’s low effort from 25 yards crept through the Grimsby wall and was turned away by home goalkeeper James McKeown. The stopper did enough to push the ball away to safety with Rendell ready to pounce for a tap-in.

Grimsby were looking dangerous as they looked for a second, especially in wide areas, and Brill had to be at his best to prevent the Mariners from doubling their lead on 19 minutes. Left-back Aswad Thomas was on the end of a neat passing move to drive a fierce low shot that the Hatters keeper did well to keep out.

Slowly but surely the Town were getting their passing game together, and a neat move down left resulted in their first corner of the game on 24 minutes. Fleetwood’s low flag-kick aimed towards the near post was half-cleared to O’Donnell whose first-time shot was deflected into the arms of the grateful McKeown.

Back came Grimsby, and three minutes later Brill had to be alert once more, this time to get behind a long-range effort from Andi Thanoj that arrowed goalwards.

As the Hatters continued to search for an equaliser they were refused a penalty on the half-hour when Fleetwood went down in the 18 yard box under a Grimsby challenge but referee Rob Whitton waved the Town’s appeal away.

There were more anxious glances towards the referee from the home defence on 35 minutes when a fine move instigated by Jake Howells resulted in Rendell being bumped to the floor in the area, but once again the referee was having none of it.

As half-time approached the Town were playing the better football, and they fashioned a great opportunity seven minutes before the break when Fleetwood sent Alex Lawless free down the right, but his low cross failed to pick out an unmarked Rendell waiting for a chance in the six yard box.

More patient stuff from the Town in the swirling wind and rain came a minute later when Fleetwood was denied a shooting chance on the edge of the area before Lawless’ first-time follow-up effort was blocked as it travelled goalwards.

The Hatters returned to the field early for the second half and, after the restart, Fleetwood forged a chance having sped clear of the home defence before being crowded out.

A minute later the Town did well to defend two dangerous Grimsby corners before a tidy break involving Rendell and Lawless almost engineered a chance for an equaliser.

The Hatters spurned an even better chance on 57 minutes when Fleetwood saw a direct free-kick hit the head of a Grimsby defender before Arnaud Mendy sliced over from eight yards following Lawless’ cross.

However, the Mariners missed a super chance themselves three minutes later on the hour when goalscorer Devitt fired over when unmarked at the back post having seized onto a deflected effort from Craig Disley.

Fleetwood and Smith both came close for the Town but Grimsby came agonisingly close to making it 2-0 when Cook volleyed against the crossbar as the Hatters failed to clear their lines.

With 20 minutes left Rendell and Mendy made way for Jon Shaw and Simon Ainge that saw Lathaniel Rowe-Turner move to left-back.

However the Mariners, and Cook, did get the elusive second goal 15 minutes from time. Ronnie Henry fouled Richard Brodie on the edge of the penalty area and Cook stepped up and blasted a low free-kick that scuttled past an unsighted Brill.

Then, three minutes later, it was 3-0 when substitute Ainge deflected a Marshall effort past Brill to leave the Town staring a Trophy exit in the face.

Brill made a fine stop with three minute left to keep out a fierce drive from Brodie but after four added minutes passed without incident it was the hosts celebrating a place in the semi-finals.

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