BY SAM SMITH
Jordan Ayew’s late header saved Crystal Palace the disappointment of being held to an FA Cup replay by 10-man Grimsby Town.
The substitute met Jeffrey Schlupp’s set-piece with four minutes remaining to secure Palace’s route into the fourth round.
The mammoth task League Two Grimsby faced against the Eagles was made even tougher when they had Andrew Fox sent off inside two minutes. Referee Martin Atkinson initially waved play on but then went to VAR, which deemed the tackle to be a sending-off offence.
It gave Palace a further boost and Mitch Rose was forced to clear off the line from Alexander Sorloth’s looping header. Max Meyer then had a similar effort come off the inside of the pitch and Sorloth somehow failed to convert the rebound from close range.
Martin Kelly then drove forward on a rare start and fired an effort which James McKeown tipped on to the post.
With 10 men, Grimsby sat further back and allowed the South Londoners to have possession. The visitors had a few sighters of their own which barely troubled Wayne Hennessey.
Despite twice hitting the post, Palace struggled to get in behind the Mariners’ tight and narrow back four and things scarcely improved in the second half as Palace began to grow frustrated. Cheikhou Kouyate struck the outside of the post with a deft header before Townsend blazed over from distance.
The winger fired two long-range efforts wide as Palace spent the remainder of the game camped on the edge of Grimsby’s penalty area.
But, finally, Palace broke edged past the fourth-tier outfit. On-loan Ayew had replaced Riedewald to add further potency up front, and subsequently nodded in Schlupp’s left-wing delivery to send the Eagles through.