GRIMSBY Town suffered back-to-back home defeats for the first time this season as Macclesfield Town won at Blundell Park.
After losing against Lincoln, the Mariners were out to get back to winning ways and make it a quickfire double against their play-off rivals from Cheshire, following the success in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day.
Town had chances to open the scoring but instead, it was Macclesfield who took the lead on the half-hour through striker Denny Johnstone.
The hosts were not behind for long though, with Jon-Paul Pittman restoring parity seven minutes later.
After the break, the teams seemed to be cancelling each other out and the game looked to be heading towards a draw but the visitors struck the decisive blow seven minutes from time, when midfielder Dan Whitaker grabbed the winner.
Three changes were made to the Town side after the 3-1 defeat by Lincoln City on Sunday.
Scott Brown came in at the expense of captain Craig Disley in midfield, while Paul Bignot replaced Carl Magnay at right-back and Jack Mackreth started in place of Scott Neilson.
James McKeown started in goal, with Bignot, Shaun Pearson, Daniel Parslow and Aswad Thomas forming the defence.
Mackreth began on the right side of midfield, with Craig Clay alongside Brown in the middle and Nathan Arnold on the left.
The strike partnership of Lenell John-Lewis and Pittman was unchanged, with Disley, Ross Hannah, Paul Walker, Paddy McLaughlin and Hamish Watson all named as substitutes.
Macclesfield travelled east looking to avenge the reverse to the Mariners in the first part of the festive double-header, when Mackreth grabbed the only goal at the Moss Rose.
The Silkmen knew a draw or better would keep them above Town in the table, while a home win would see Grimsby leapfrog their opponents.
An early free kick came for a foul on Clay near the edge of the Macclesfield box but Brown’s delivery from the right was headed away for a throw-in.
A first-time cross from Thomas on the left was headed away after a good Town move down the left on four minutes, before Arnold tried to cut the ball back across goal but could only find keeper Rhys Taylor.
Macclesfield’s first real attack saw Waide Fairhurst pull the ball across the six-yard line after getting it from Whitaker but nobody was in the right place to convert the chance and it was put behind for a corner.
Thomas won a corner at the other end on nine minutes but Arnold’s kick was headed away, before good work by Thomas down the left saw him beat full-back Andy Halls and put a ball across that John-Lewis could not get on the end of.
Arnold had a shot blocked after a break through the middle by Brown, then the winger gave the ball away in midfield and Brown was spoken to by referee Adrian Holmes after a foul near the halfway line.
Brown was then fouled himself to give Town a free kick midway inside the Macclesfield half. From it, Arnold’s delivery fell for Parslow but he could only head wide.
Scott Barrow tried his luck from distance for the visitors on 17 minutes but his shot was comfortable for McKeown, who got down to stop it.
Arnold was penalised for a push on Adriano Moke near the touchline on the Macclesfield right and from the free kick, George Pilkington’s header was scrambled away for a corner by McKeown. Paul Turnbull’s kick was cleared by Mackreth after the ball had been headed back across goal.
Macclesfield were starting to get on top in terms of possession and territory as the 20-minute mark passed, although chances had been few and far between and neither goalkeeper had been unduly troubled.
Arthur Gnahoua hit the side-netting with a left-wing cross on 23 minutes, before a better spell from the Mariners perhaps should have led to the opening goal five minutes later.
Good work by John-Lewis on the left saw him hold the ball up, turn and cross for Pittman, who could only fire wide from 12 yards.
The Mariners were punished almost immediately, as their visitors took the lead on the half-hour. Fairhurst beat Parslow on the right and sent over a cross that was parried out for JOHNSTONE to put the rebound into the top corner of the net.
Town’s response saw a deflected Mackreth cross headed away, before Arnold won a corner on the left. Macclesfield, playing into a strong wind, struggled to fully clear the ball from the flag-kick but the hosts were unable to create a chance in front of goal.
Another corner came after pressure from John-Lewis on 37 minutes and again, Arnold’s ball was headed away. This time though, when the ball came back into the box, Pilkington could only head it straight to PITTMAN, who rifled it past Taylor and into the bottom corner for 1-1.
Another Arnold corner evaded the jump of Parslow, before John-Lewis cleared the Osmond Stand with a shot as the Mariners went in search of a second goal before half-time.
Town were now the team on top and Bignot had a shot blocked from 20 yards, before Mackreth beat his man on the right and sent over a cross that was hooked clear by Pilkington.
Arnold won another left-wing corner a minute before the break but Barrow was there to head the ball away after it was floated towards the far post.
One added minute was signalled as a foul on Bignot brought a Grimsby free kick which did not lead to an attempt on goal.
And with no further chances created by either side before the referee’s whistle blew, the scores remained level at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and Town had the first opportunity of the second half less than a minute in. John-Lewis ran down the left and hit a shot that Taylor held at the second attempt, with Pittman closing in.
A spell of Macclesfield possession followed, before a Mackreth cross was cleared as John-Lewis looked to connect with it.
Gnahoua did well to keep the ball for the away side near the halfway line and find Fairhurst on the right on 55 minutes but he could not get past Pearson, with Thomas completing the clearance.
A foul by Thomas on Fairhurst gave Macclesfield a free kick in a dangerous position to the right of the Town box soon afterwards and Turnbull’s low, driven delivery was put behind for a corner by Pittman. It led to a shot by Fairhurst being blocked for another flag-kick by Bignot.
Both goalkeepers were having quiet afternoons and that continued when Bignot sent a long-range shot well wide of the target just after the hour.
The game was lacking a spark as both sides cancelled each other out and Town boss Paul Hurst made the first substitution on 67 minutes, sending Hannah on for Pittman in attack.
Hannah’s first involvement was to spin and shoot from 30 yards but the effort was off-target, as was one from Brown from a similar range on 70 minutes.
A Town corner came a minute later and from it, Parslow connected with a free header at the far post but could only send the ball over the bar.
Daniel Rowe replaced Gnahoua for the away side after the winger had gone down injured near the halfway line.
McKeown had to be alert to stop Macclesfield from regaining their lead with a little more than 15 minutes to go. Rowe got down the left and pulled the ball back for Turnbull, who connected brilliantly with a 20-yard volley. The keeper got down though, diving to his left to make a good save.
John-Lewis made way for Watson for the last 14 minutes, with the New Zealander given a chance to impress for the remainder of the game.
Watson did well to control the ball and work some space to get a shot away from distance, although Taylor was able to watch it go wide.
Matthew Barnes-Homer came on for Fairhurst up front for Macclesfield with just over 10 minutes left.
Watson won a corner on the right as Town kept pushing for a winner but from it, the referee spotted an infringement in the penalty area and blew for a free kick.
Instead, it was the visitors who grabbed their lead back with seven minutes to go, when a low ball from the right was not held by McKeown and after he could only parry it, WHITAKER got to the loose ball and finished from an acute angle.
McLaughlin replaced Clay as Town went in search of a goal that would now only rescue a point, while Will Haining came on for Johnstone for Macclesfield.
Four added minutes were played at the end of the game but Town were unable to force a second equaliser, meaning they slipped back to four points behind their opponents, although they remain fourth in the Conference table.
The Mariners are without a game at the weekend and are next in action against Gateshead in the FA Trophy on January 10.