Salisbury v TownGRIMSBY Town slipped to their second narrow defeat inside a week as Salisbury City ran out 1-0 winners at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium.
Neither goalkeeper was seriously troubled in a first half of few chances but the hosts made their breakthrough within three minutes of the restart, as striker Dan Fitchett scored what proved to be the winner.
Town responded well to going behind and they created several good chances to equalise, with substitute Alex Rodman having a shot cleared off the line, while Andy Cook and Chris Doig both went close from corners.
But it was not to be for the visitors as Salisbury held on to claim all three points.
Four changes were made to the Town side after the narrow home loss to league leaders Cambridge United in midweek.
Two were enforced, with Cook replacing the injured Lenell John-Lewis in attack and Clayton McDonald coming in at centre-back in place of Shaun Pearson, who was suspended.
The other alterations saw Ritchie Jones come into the midfield with skipper Craig Disley dropping to the bench, while Joe Colbeck was preferred to Scott Neilson, who was also named as a substitute.
James McKeown started in goal, with Sam Hatton, McDonald, Doig and Aswad Thomas as the back four.
Colbeck, Jones, Scott Kerr and Patrick McLaughlin were the midfielders, with Cook and Liam Hearn named as the strikers.
Disley and Neilson were joined on the bench by Paul Bignot, Dayle Southwell and Rodman.
Miles Storey missed the target with the home side’s first attempt of the game on three minutes.
Town then won the first corner of the game, which led to McLaughlin sending a cross over that home keeper Will Puddy got to ahead of Hearn.
McKeown claimed a catch from a cross, before a run from Colbeck almost led to a Town chance when he pulled the ball back but Hearn could not connect with it.
Neither goalkeeper had been tested at the midway point of the first half as chances were in short supply.
Striker Dan Fitchett almost had a chance for the home side after a slip by Hatton but he could not take advantage and the game remained goalless.
At the other end, Jones hit a long-range shot that went through to Puddy in the Salisbury goal.
Town won a corner just after the half-hour but Cook could not control McLaughlin’s delivery and the ball was cleared.
A long clearance by McKeown after a shot by Stuart Sinclair almost fell for Hearn but Puddy came off his line to clear the danger.
A foul by McDonald gave the hosts a free kick 10 minutes before the break but left-back Elliot Frear’s shot was weak and went wide.
Then, the Mariners could have had a penalty when Thomas seemed to be pulled back inside the box but no decision was given until after Thomas won the ball back and was fouled, this time outside the area. Hatton’s free kick did not lead to a chance in front of goal.
Colbeck worked some space to get a cross in on 41 minutes but again, Puddy got to it ahead of Hearn.
A Salisbury corner was dealt with by Hatton a minute later as the home side looked to get themselves ahead before half-time.
Another opportunity almost came when a clearance from McKeown rebounded off Fitchett but the ball spun out for a goal-kick as the striker tried to chase it down.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and with no further chances for either side, the deadlock remained in place at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and Salisbury took the lead with their first chance of the second half. FITCHETT took the ball after a cross and controlled it before blasting a shot past McKeown.
Town’s response saw them go inches away from an instant equaliser when Thomas fired a shot that hit the frame of the goal.
The left-back then conceded a corner as the hosts looked to continue the momentum they gained by taking the lead but Storey could only head over the bar from the flag-kick.
More home pressure came with another two corners around the 53-minute mark, the second of which saw the referee blow for a Town free kick as McDonald looked to clear.
Rodman came on for Jones as Town made the first substitution of the game two minutes before the hour.
The former Aldershot man was soon involved in the game, sending a shot wide and then hitting a cross that was cleared for a throw-in.
That proved to be the start of a promising spell for the Mariners, which also included a run and cross from Hearn and a Colbeck header from a Thomas cross that went wide of the mark.
A Grimsby corner came on 67 minutes but Doig could not divert it towards goal, before a Rodman cross was blocked. Town retained possession and Rodman worked his way through the Salisbury defence before finding Hearn, who saw his shot blocked.
The away side were getting closer to an equaliser and Rodman was denied on 71 minutes when he had an effort cleared off the line by Lewis.
Neilson replaced Colbeck with 17 minutes left to play, as the Mariners continued to push for an equaliser.
Another chance came when Cook powered a header towards goal from a corner but keeper Puddy managed to push the ball over his bar for another corner, which came to nothing.
Town went close again from another corner when Doig hit the bar, before McKeown was called into action at the other end to make a good save after the home side launched a counter-attack.
More attacking play from Rodman with seven minutes to go saw him beat two defenders but he could not create a chance, instead running the ball out of play.
A Salisbury free kick on the right was flicked away for a corner by McKeown and before the kick was taken, the final Town change was made as Southwell replaced Hearn up front.
Neilson sent a header straight at Puddy after a Thomas cross from the left as the clock continued to tick down on Town’s chances of getting anything from the game.
They were handed an additional four minutes and continued to pour forward, with McKeown going forward to join attacks from free kicks and corners.
But the Mariners could not breach the Salisbury defence and they will now look to get back on track when they entertain Forest Green Rovers on Saturday.