Mark Burchill's late goal lifted Portsmouth to the top of the Nationwide First Division yesterday after the south coast side had seen Grimsby miss a succession of chances.
Burchill scored five minutes from time to end the Mariners' spirited resistance. But Paul Groves' side had dominated the first half and forced the Pompey goalkeeper Shaka Hislop into a string of fine saves.
The Italian defender Gianluca Festa made his second successive start since his move from Middlesbrough and proved a dominant figure as Grimsby threw wave after wave of attacks at Harry Redknapp's men. The veteran Paul Merson proved to be Portsmouth's most potent attacking weapon, but his best efforts failed to break the first-half deadlock.
Grimsby started quickly and a volley from the defender Tony Gallimore brought a fine save from Hislop after just eight minutes. Stuart Campbell forcing Hislop into another fine save moments later and Darren Barnard tried his luck from 25 yards, but his fierce shot sailed over the crossbar. Portsmouth were relieved to see Stuart Campbell's powerful header from Terry Cooke's inswinging corner flash just wide of the upright and Hislop was called into action again to gather Barnard's swirling corner.
The second period proved a more even contest and Merson almost broke the deadlock just after the restart. His shot, from Svetoslav Todorov's cross, was superbly blocked by Steve Chettle on the Grimsby line.
Steve Kabba was booked for diving after taking a tumble in the penalty area as Grimsby tried to find a way through.
Burchill came on to replace the striker Deon Burton midway through the second half and proved to be the difference between the teams. The former Celtic forward made an immediate impact when his thunderous left-foot shot was blocked by Simon Ford and, from the resulting corner, Merson brought another superb save from Coyne. Taylor had another shot saved by Coyne and Festa, with a rare foray up front, blasted an effort wide.
Grimsby's valiant efforts proved tiring, however, and Portsmouth took advantage of Grimsby's heavy legs with five minutes to spare. Burchill latched on to Todorov's pass to drive a low left-foot volley into the net and send Pompey to the top of the league.
The defeat leaves Grimsby close to the foot of the table with only one goal and two points to their name.
Grimsby Town: Coyne; Groves, Chettle, Ford, McDermott, Coldicott (Robinson, 87), Campbell, Barnard (Rowan, 87), Gallimore, Cooke, Kabba. Substitutes not used: Ward, Hughes, Bolder.
Portsmouth: Hislop; De Zeeuw, Foxe, Festa, Crowe (Harper, 63), Hughes, Merson, Quashie, Taylor, Burton (Burchill, 58), Todorov (Robinson, 89). Substitutes not used: Kawaguchi, Primus.
Referee: M Messias (N Yorkshire).
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies