Shirebrook Town put four second half goals past North East Lincolnshire hosts Grimsby Borough in an irresistible seven minute spell at The Bradley Football Development Centre on Saturday.
And after a run of poor form in November, coupled with a first clean sheet in nine games, it was the perfect start to the new month for Shirebrook, and they hardly ever looked out of control of the game, despite a frustratingly goalless first half against their stubborn mid-table rivals.
Shirebrook were without top goalscorer Jake Vernon, due to work commitments, but striker Danny Williams returned to the side after an absence of twelve games through injury and he was thrown straight into the action with a place in the starting eleven.
And Williams almost marked his return right from the off, beating the full back for pace and crossing the ball from wide on the right for strike-partner Mitcham Husbands to convert with barely a minute on the clock, only to see the goal harshly ruled out for an offside.
Shirebrook kept up the early pressure and three minutes later Jordan Lemon hit the far post with a deep cross from the right, before Husbands went close soon afterwards with a rising shot from 22 yards that Borough keeper John Taylor did well to tip over the crossbar.
The home side came more into the game after that, but on 18 minutes Borough striker Steve Davis and Shirebrook keeper Ben Hallam collided accidentally after both went for the same ball in the away box.
And the unfortunate Hallam was left with a nasty gash above one of his eyes, and five minutes of treatment on the pitch couldn’t stem the flow of blood from the cut. But the game bizarrely continued to be held up when the keeper left the field for another five minutes, re-emerging from the dressing rooms with his head wrapped in bandage after receiving further medical attention indoors.
It was bitterly cold in the biting afternoon wind and all the players must have struggled to stay warm during the long stoppage, but Borough were first to settle back into the task and they went close to breaking the deadlock five minutes after the game got underway again.
John Waugh tested Hallam at the near post with a shot from the edge of the box on the right, before Shirebrook gifted the ball to Davis two minutes later, but he fired wide from 16 yards with just Hallam to beat.
It was a let off for the visitors and something of a wake-up call, and Shirebrook finished the half strongly, but they still had nothing to show even though Carlos Forbes had looked certain to score with less than ten minutes remaining from Tom Rowbotham’s free-kick from 30 yards on the right.
Husbands headed the ball back in from the left to Forbes at the near post, but he missed the target from eight yards with his header, and Shirebrook’s best chance of the half was gone.
And the second half began where the first half had left off, but the points always looked like they were there for Shirebrook’s taking. It just needed a goal and the flood gates opened after Brandon Cardwell finally put the visitors in front on 68 minutes at the far post off Robert Ludlam’s cross from the right.
Substitute Jason Bradley doubled the advantage two minutes later at the far post off Rowbotham’s corner from the right, before Mitcham Husbands added another three minutes after that when Tom Mullen slid the ball through and the striker made no mistake with a shot into the far corner from 16 yards on the right.
And Mullen himself completed the whirlwind rout two minutes later with a free header at the far post off Rowbotham’s corner on the left.
Borough couldn’t have known what hit them and Shirebrook kept the pressure on, but the home side almost grabbed a consolation goal with a minute of the game remaining, but Hallam was comfortable with Davis’ 8-yard header at the near post off Josh Fuller’s cross, pulled back from the byline on the left.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook very nearly had the last word deep into stoppage time when the hard-working Lemon beat two home defenders before bursting clear into the Borough box with just Taylor left to beat, only to see his low 14-yard shot come back off the base of an upright, before being cleared.
Shirebrook manager Mark Shaw said after the game: “That’s a superb performance today. From start to finish we’ve played some fantastic football.”
“We created a lot of chances throughout the 90 minutes, from the first five minutes when we’ve had a goal disallowed, to Jordan Lemon hitting the post in the final two minutes.”
“We’ve been strong, we’ve been competitive and we’ve worked harder than they have. We’ve created the better chances and we’ve scored some fantastic goals.”
“We had a tough month last month, including a couple of cup games, which was disjointing in terms of our league programme. But we’ve played really well today and deserved to score the four goals. It could have been five or even six in the end.”
Shirebrook Town are in cup action on Tuesday night when they make the long trip to North Yorkshire side Knaresborough Town for a 7.45pm kick-off in a re-arranged League Cup Second Round tie, before returning to league matters and Langwith Road next Saturday when North East Lincolnshire side Cleethorpes Town are the visitors for a 3 o’clock kick-off.
Grimsby Borough: Taylor, Deakins, Forrest, Thompson, Baker, Unsworth, Fuller, G Newby (Petronzio 71), Waugh, Davis, Courtly (King 71). Subs not used: S Newby.
Shirebrook Town: Hallam, Ludlam, Rowbotham, Walker (Gee 78), Timons, Cardwell, Forbes (Eckhardt 81), Lemon, Williams (Bradley 64), Husbands, Mullen. Subs not used: Hemsley, Jordan.
Referee: Craig Simpson (South Yorkshire)