Burton Albion finished their first Football League campaign in style as they ran out 3-0 victors over Grimsby Town. The Mariners had arrived at the Pirelli Stadium knowing that even a win for Neil Woods' men might not be enough to keep them in the Football League after 99 years. In the end Barnet's home victory over already promoted Rochdale sealed Town's fate but Shaun Harrad's brace, following Greg Pearson's 10th minute opener condemned the visitors to relegation with a defeat.
The hot shot duo were on fire as they combined for the first, Harrad flicking the ball on for Pearson to rifle home and Harrad took his tally to 22 for the season either side of half time.
Paul Peschisolido made just one change to his line up that won at Rochdale last weekend. With Steve Kabba missing his last game on loan for the club, Pearson returned to the starting line-up as the Brewers looked to finish their first Football League campaign on a winning note.
The visitors needed a good start and they were out of the blocks immediately with both Michael Coulson and Mark Hudson trying their luck from distance although neither effort troubled Albion's 46 year old goalkeeper Kevin Poole.
Albion fired a free kick into the defensive wall before two key moments defined the game. Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro weaved his way down the left side of the penalty area before chipping the ball to the far post. With Poole grasping at thin air the ball rebounded off the post with Poole recovering well to drop on the ball on the goalline. The ball was immediately pumped up field and Greg PEARSON scampered free of the defence before firing a thunderbolt shot from the edge of the box beyond a despairing Nick Colgan.
The visitors werer stunned and it took them a while to regroup but they were close to geteting back on level terms in the 18th minute when Hudson drilled a shot through a ruck of players and just wide of the post.
Poole had to scramble from his goal to save at the feet of Akpa-Apro as the striker looked to seize on a loose ball in the box but a combination of Tony James and Tom Parkes ensured that the ball was cleared to safety off another Grimsby player.
The lively striker almost turned provider again in the 29th minute getting away from Tom Parkes. His cross to the far post was just too high for Paul Boertien to clear but the defender's challenge was just enough to put off Coulson who scuffed his effort from 12 yards out.
Poole was called upon to make a superb save in the 32nd minute. Joe Widdowson launched a free kick into the penalty area after Romuald Boco was booked for a challenge on Jamie Devitt. Akpa Akpro timed his run and leap to perfection to head towards the top corner but Poole was equal to it to palm it over the crossbar.
Grimsby kept the pressure up and from a corner in the 36th minute Paul Boertien had to clear off the line as Lee Peacock tried to head home Jamie Devitt's corner kick. Again it proved a key incident. After soaking up pressure from the visitors Albion broke down the right. Michale Simpson found Boco as the Brewers broke free of their defensive shackles and the Benin international fed Pearson down the right and when the goal scorers cross was deflected to the far post, Mariners keeper Nick Colgan was left rooted to the spot as Shaun HARRAD bundled home his 20th league goal of the campaign.
The Brewers were inches away from a three goal lead as the half drew to a close. Grimsby failed to clear properly and Cleveland Taylors drilled effort was inches away from the toe of Pearson stretching inside the six yard box.
Half time - Burton Albion 2-0 Grimsby Town
Again Grimsby made a flying start to the half with their Football League place hanging by a thread. Albion were forced into an early change with Aaron Webster replacing a struggling Russell Penn.
Coulson produced another stunning save from Poole in the 50th minute and was then equal to another effort from the other side of the box fired in by Devitt. Inevitably their desparation to attack left gaps at the back and Greg Pearson was able to race clear before trying to chip Colgan but only putting the balll straight into the hands of the Grimsby keeper. Shaun Harrad also fired into the side netting as Albion looked to put the game to bed.
They did not have long to wait. Harrad was tripped by Dean Sinclair 25 yards out, the Grimsby player picking up a booking for his trouble. The punishment did not end there as HARRAD picked himself up and smashed home the free kick beyond Colgan.
It was Sinclair's last action as he was immediately substituted by Peter Sweeney as the Mariners sought something to cling on to.
Boertien again had to head off his own line as Grimsby piled forward. Sweeney's corner was headed towards the bottom corner by Oliver Lancashire. The danger was not over and Poole had to drop to his right to hold onto Peacock's volley from the edge of the box.
Even when Poole was beaten, by the bounce in the 66th minute, Boco was in the right place to block Akpa Akpro's seemingly goalbound effort.
Harrad was close to adding a fourth and completing his hat-trick in the 80th minute but his snap shot flew just wide of the post.
Try as they might Grimsby could not seem to find a way past Kevin Poole. Akpa Akpro was denied again and the keeper excelled himself with a fantastic reflex save in the 84th minute to deny Peacock. To their credit the Grimsby players continued to try and at least grab a consolation effort but with Poole and his defence in no mood to give anything away the final whistle confirmed Grimsby's relegation to the Blue Square Premier and Poole's first clean sheet in the Football League in an Albion shirt.