GRIMSBY Town moved into second place in the Conference table as they beat Braintree Town at Cressing Road.
A single goal from the in-form Lenell John-Lewis was enough for the Mariners to register their first win in four attempts against the Essex side on their own pitch.
It was Town’s fourth league win in a row and their fifth in all competitions as they edged a game of few opportunities.
But when the chance came for Grimsby, they took it through John-Lewis’ 11th of the season and saw the game out to claim maximum points again.
Town were unchanged from Saturday’s home win against Dartford, meaning James McKeown lined up behind a defence of Carl Magnay, Toto Nsiala, Shaun Pearson and Aswad Thomas.
Craig Disley again took on the holding midfield role behind Craig Clay and Harry Pell, with striker John-Lewis supported by wide-men Jack Mackreth and Nathan Arnold.
One change was made on the bench, with Paul Bignot replacing Paul Walker alongside Ross Hannah, Scott Neilson, Jon-Paul Pittman and Paddy McLaughlin.
Town began on the font foot and a Mackreth cross on five minutes went just beyond John-Lewis, before Arnold retrieved the ball but could not pick out a team-mate.
A foul on John-Lewis soon afterwards gave Town a free kick on the edge of the Braintree penalty area. Arnold’s dipping shot cleared the bar.
Arnold set off on a run on 14 minutes but it ended when he went down on the edge of the area, although the referee adjudged the winger had dived and his was the first name of the night to go into the book.
Pell was given a free kick after going down under a challenge near the corner of the penalty area on 21 minutes and Arnold’s delivery was headed away for a corner by Matthew Paine. This time, the ball into the box was headed clear for a throw-in.
Braintree had shown little attacking threat in the opening quarter of the game and when they were given a free kick midway inside the Town half, it was dealt with by the Mariners defence.
Another Grimsby attack saw a long pass find Arnold but after he worked the space to get a cross in from the left, the ball was headed out for a corner before Pell could meet it.
Dan Walker became the first home player to be shown a yellow card for dissent on 33 minutes, before a free kick from Arnold was cleared.
Nsiala followed him into the referee’s notebook three minutes later, also for dissent after a free kick decision went against him.
A late challenge on Magnay near the halfway line brought a free kick, which was headed on by Pell towards John-Lewis. The striker could not apply the finishing touch though, sending the ball through to Nick Hamann in the Braintree goal.
Disley was booked for a shirt-pull on James Mulley five minutes before the break but again, the hosts could not create any danger from the resulting free kick.
A cross from Walker was cleared for a thrown by Nsiala two minutes later as the home side began to come into the game more.
But after one added minute was played at the end of the half, no further chances were created and the game remained goalless at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and Magnay was spoken to after a foul three minutes in, although the free kick did not lead to a chance in font of goal.
Good defending by Disley saw him calmly chest the ball back to McKeown after a cross from the home right.
Then, Arnold was thwarted by Omar Sowunmi at the other end as he looked to move towards goal after a flick from John-Lewis.
John-Lewis was fouled on 51 minutes but Braintree broke after the free kick was cleared and McKeown had to stretch to catch the ball after it was headed back to him by Thomas.
Pell was the fourth Town player to be booked when he was penalised for dangerous play, then Pearson had to concede a corner after Walker got behind Thomas and sent a cross in from the right. Paine headed wide at the near post from the flag-kick.
The game had a stop-start nature to it, with both sides conceding free kicks and neither goalkeeper having much work to do.
A low cross from Mackreth was cleared back to him four minutes after the hour, before a return ball into the box from Magnay was put out for a throw.
Town’s next attack saw them finally make the breakthrough, as a shot from Clay was palmed away by Hamann and JOHN-LEWIS was there to beat the keeper to the rebound and slam the ball into the net.
Chez Isaac was replaced by Charlie Strutton for Braintree two minutes after the goal, with Kenny Davis also coming on for Dan Sparkes at the same time.
Magnay was yellow-carded for dissent with 70 minutes on the clock, before a Thomas cross was headed behind for a corner. Arnold took it but Davis cleared.
Thomas was penalised for a foul three minutes later and from the from the fee kick Sowunmi was left with a free header but put it wide of McKeown’s goal.
Another free kick came after a foul was given against Clay but this time, John-Lewis headed the ball clear.
Braintree were pressing for an equaliser and they had a corner on 75 minutes, which was eventually cleared by Pell.
After a string of free kicks had gone against them, ironic cheers from the travelling Town fans came when a decision went in favour of their side, although they were unable to create any danger from it.
Braintree’s last substitution saw Jordan Cox come on for Mulley with nine minutes to go.
The Mariners had a chance to make the result safe on 84 minutes, when a corner from Arnold was flicked on by Pell but John-Lewis could not turn the ball into the net from close range.
Pittman replaced Mackreth on the Grimsby right soon afterwards and the substitute was fouled with two minutes to go to give the away side a free kick. Town kept possession from it until a shot from Pell was comfortably held by Hamann.
A scare for the Mariners came when Magnay went down injured after making a challenge inside his own penalty area in the last of four added minutes and was replaced by Bignot, although the right-back was able to watch the remainder of the game from the tunnel area.
With no more chances for either side, Grimsby were able to see the game out, collect a vital three points and finally break their Braintree hoodoo.
Attention now switches back to the FA Cup as Oxford United visit Blundell Park on Saturday.