GRIMSBY Town missed the opportunity to make up ground on their promotion rivals as they slumped to a fourth consecutive defeat against lowly Nuneaton Town.
The relegation-threatened hosts won by a single goal from striker Andy Brown on a night to forget for the 266 travelling Mariners fans in the Midlands.
Town struggled to make an impression as an attacking force and failed to seriously trouble home keeper Lee Burge throughout the 90 minutes.
Five changes were made to the Grimsby side after Saturday’s home defeat by Cambridge United, with skipper Craig Disley and striker Ross Hannah both returning from injury.
The others to come into the team were Joe Colbeck, Bradley Wood and Lennell John-Lewis, with Aswad Thomas, Marcus Marshall, Frankie Artus, Andy Cook and Richard Brodie all dropping out.
James McKeown began in goal, with Wood starting on the left of a back four that also included Sam Hatton, Shaun Pearson and Ian Miller.
Colbeck slotted in on the right of midfield, with Jamie Devitt moving to the left and Disley partnering Tom Naylor in the middle.
Hannah and John-Lewis formed the strike partnership, with Thomas, Marshall, Cook, Brodie and Artus all named as substitutes.
Town were looking to stop a run of three consecutive defeats and get their promotion push back on track with a win.
Their part-time hosts had different ambitions and were looking for the three points that would take them out of the Blue Square Bet Premier relegation zone and above Lincoln City after their weekend victory over the Imps.
Town created the first opportunity of the game with a Hatton cross from the right but the attack was halted when the referee blew for a foul by Miller.
The home side responded when a ball through the middle dropped for Wesley York but his shot was straight at McKeown.
A Grimsby corner came on 15 minutes after John-Lewis won a header but the ball was put behind as Hannah looked to profit. After a short corner, Devitt’s delivery to the far post was too strong for Naylor.
The home side then opened the scoring two minutes later, when York set off on a run down the right before pulling the ball back across the six-yard box for leading scorer BROWN to finish from close range.
Another Mariners corner on 22 minutes came to nothing as the visitors looked to find a way back into the game with an equalising goal.
But the away side could have gone further behind when McKeown came out of his penalty area but failed to get to the ball, although when it was hit towards goal, Miller was there to clear off the line.
At the other end, an early shot by Hannah from the edge of the box went just wide of the target.
The home side were quickly on the attack again and this time, Northampton loanee Louis Moult hit an effort that McKeown had to stop.
Town were yet to get into their stride at the half-hour, as Nuneaton created the better opportunities and spent more time in possession of the ball.
A better passage of play from the Mariners led to a free kick close to the edge of the box for a foul on Devitt, who had cut in from the left. Hatton’s shot from it deflected off the home wall for a corner.
From the flag, Colbeck’s kick was headed across goal by Miller and hit back into the danger zone by John-Lewis but nobody could get a decisive touch to the ball.
A Nuneaton corner came when the ball was flicked past McKeown but came off Pearson and went behind.
James Armson’s kick came in from the right but Moult’s touch went away for a Town throw.
A foul on Naylor gave Grimsby a free kick on 42 minutes but again, they could not make it count as Colbeck’s delivery was cleared for a corner by Armson.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and with no further chances for either side, the hosts kept their one-goal advantage intact at the break.
That meant the Mariners would have to improve in the second half if they were to take anything from the game.
The visitors were sent out early ahead of the restart, with Marshall replacing Devitt as the managers looked to increase their attacking threat.
The substitute looked to cause problems for the home defence when he burst into the home penalty area but lacked support and was tackled.
A shot at the other end took a deflection and went through to McKeown, before another run from Marshall led to a Town corner five minutes in. Colbeck’s looping kick was headed across goal by Pearson but John-Lewis could not get to the ball.
The home side had a chance to double their lead when the ball was picked up by Armson and he found Brown on the left but the striker drilled his shot wide.
A second Town substitution came on 56 minutes, with Cook replacing Hannah up front.
Moult went down inside the Grimsby penalty area after receiving a pass from Danny Sleath but the only decision from the referee was to point for a Nuneaton corner, which was headed clear by Cook. The home side kept possession though and a cross from midfielder Simon Forsdick went out for a goal kick.
Moult tested McKeown again on the hour but the keeper showed his sharpness to dive and stop the shot.
Wood conceded a free kick for a foul on York two minutes later but the hosts could not turn it into a goalscoring opportunity.
The third and final Grimsby change saw Thomas come on for Wood at left-back, with the Mariners still unable to find their way into the game so far.
James Dance came on for Nuneaton and his first action was to concede a corner, which was played into the box by Colbeck but cleared by the hosts, who looked to launch a counter-attack but Dance was caught offside.
A free kick played into the Town box by Armson was cleared for a corner by Miller with 15 minutes to go but McKeown got a fist to the ball from the flag and the follow-up ball into the box went out for a goal kick.
Naylor was booked after showing his frustration when a poor challenge on John-Lewis went unpunished.
Another Nuneaton corner came on 77 minutes when the ball went out off Thomas but it was eventually dealt with by the Town defence, with Thomas touching the ball back to McKeown.
The Mariners were still struggling to make an impact on the game as an attacking force with the clock ticking past the 80-minute mark.
Disley won a corner with seven minutes to go but Colbeck’s delivery was poor, although he was given another opportunity when Forsdick sliced his clearance out of play. This time, a free kick was given for a foul by Miller.
Dance was yellow-carded for a foul that gave Town a free kick on 87 minutes but again, keeper Burge was left untroubled.
At the other end, a foul by Thomas gave the home side a free kick close to the edge of the Town box but they could not fashion a chance from it.
Grimsby were given a corner in the second minute of stoppage time after Disley looked to have headed wide but despite McKeown coming forward for the set-piece, they were again unable to make it count.
Another chance came in the dying seconds when John-Lewis hit a shot into the side netting and that proved to be the last opportunity to salvage a point from the game.
Town must now regroup ahead of Sunday’s FA Trophy Final against Wrexham at Wembley.