GRIMSBY Town were punished for failing to take their chances as Macclesfield Town won at Blundell Park.
A much-changed Mariners side dominated the game in terms of possession and territory but they were unable to make it count on the scoreboard.
And although the visitors’ attacks were few and far between, they were much more clinical in front of goal, as lone striker Kristian Dennis put them ahead in first-half stoppage time before doubling the advantage after the break.
That meant it was a frustrating Bank Holiday Monday afternoon for Town and their supporters, as the hosts could not force their way back into the game and instead, slipped further behind the early-season National League pacesetters.
Five changes were made to the Grimsby starting XI after the draw at Lincoln City on Saturday.
One was enforced as Josh Gowling missed out through suspension after being sent off in that game, while Craig Disley, Andy Monkhouse, Nathan Arnold and Danny East were all rested.
Their places were taken by Richard Tait, Jack Mackreth, Craig Clay, Marcus Marshall and Toto Nsiala.
James McKeown began in goal, with Tait, Nsiala, Shaun Pearson and Gregor Robertson forming the defence.
Mackreth began on the right side of midfield, with Clay partnering Matt Robinson in the middle and Marshall beginning on the left.
The front two of Omar Bogle and Padraig Amond remained unchanged, while Disley, Monkhouse, Arnold and East were joined on the bench by Jon-Paul Pittman.
Macclesfield came into the game looking to improve on a poor start to the season which had seen them take just four points from their first six games.
They would look to lone striker Dennis to cause problems for the Grimsby defence and to midfielders Paul Turnbull and Danny Whitaker to dictate play.
An early low cross from Mackreth was side-footed out for the game’s first corner and the ball was half-cleared from it, before it was worked back to Mackreth on the right. He crossed again but visiting keeper Shwan Jalal got to the ball first.
A low corner from the right for Macclesfield led to a shot from Whitaker on the edge of the box being blocked by Pearson on six minutes.
Robertson chipped a ball through for Marshall on the Town left to start the hosts’ next attack but the winger’s cross was headed clear.
Soon afterwards, Mackreth went on a run down the right but when he cut in and pulled the ball back, nobody in black and white was there to take advantage.
A scare for the home fans came when McKeown delayed his clearance after receiving a back-pass from Robertson and the ball was charged down by Dennis, although it spun harmlessly wide.
That moment apart, neither goalkeeper had been called into any serious action over the opening quarter of an hour as both sides struggled to create chances.
Tait had to head over his own bar for a corner on 17 minutes but after the ball from the flag was headed away by Pearson, Danny Rowe could only send a speculative volley high and wide.
Bogle aimed to profit from the rebound but slipped as he shaped to shoot. A through-ball from Robinson looked for Mackreth a minute later but a vital touch from a defender seemed to take it slightly away from the winger, who was then blocked by Jalal.
He then gave it to Bogle, who in turn found Amond but the striker could not apply the finish, instead shooting over the bar. The best move of the game so far came on 19 minutes, when Bogle turned after getting the ball from a throw-in and made tracks down the left.
Another heavy touch from McKeown from an Nsiala back-pass almost caused a problem but the keeper did well to scramble across his line and get the ball away from danger.
A Town corner came on 27 minutes after a good cross-field pass from Marshall to Mackreth and after the ball from the flag came back to the right-winger, his cross-shot went wide of the far post.
Clay won a corner three minutes later after trying to pull the ball back from the right and after the kick was taken short, a cross came in from the right but Bogle was beaten to the header and the visitors cleared.
Keeper Jalal came out for it and was adjudged to have been fouled as he dropped the ball. Neil Byrne was shown the first yellow card of the game just before the half-hour and from the resulting free kick, Bogle saw a shot deflected out for yet another corner.
That then led to Marshall firing over the bar from inside the box. Tait chipped it towards the penalty spot but Jalal got to it ahead of Pearson to ensure the only damage was a corner. A foul on Bogle brought about a Town free kick on the right, around 30 yards from goal.
Town kept possession though and the attack ended with Marshall drilling a volley wide from 20 yards. The corner count increases again after good play involving Bogle and Robertson on the left but again, it did not initially cause any problems.
Macclesfield had shown little as an attacking force as the Mariners dominated the game, albeit without causing too many problems for Jalal or his defence.
Andy Halls was booked for a late challenge on Robertson four minutes before the break but again, Town could not profit from the free kick, as McKeown floated the ball through to opposite number Jalal from near the halfway line.
A ball from the Macclesfield right was punched away from goal by McKeown but when it came back into the box, DENNIS was there to prod it into the net at the far post to give the away side the lead. Two added minutes were played at the end of the half and in the first of them came the sucker-punch the home fans may have feared.
The Mariners had been on top for the majority of the half but had not been able to convert their dominance into goals and they had been made to pay right at the end.
That meant it was frustration for the home players and fans as the half-time whistle blew, although Grimsby would have plenty of time to turn the scoreline around after the interval.
Mackreth’s left-wing delivery was cleared. No changes were made before the restart and Amond won the first corner of the second half for Town two minutes in.
Marshall was thwarted by Jalal after a heavy first touch gave the keeper the chance to come off his line and get to the ball before the winger could shoot.
A foul on Mackreth in a central position but a long way out gave Bogle the opportunity to shoot but his effort lacked power and was comfortable for Jalal.
Good play by Bogle soon afterwards saw him get the ball through to strike-partner Amond but the Irishman saw his shot saved by Jalal.
Town were building pressure and they had another chance when a deep cross from Tait was met by Bogle but still, the equaliser would not come as the striker headed over the bar.
Bogle volleyed wide from 25 yards on 55 minutes as the Mariners continued to attack, before a Robertson cross from the left was headed away by defender George Pilkington.
Another good chance came on the hour, when Marshall got to the byline and pulled the ball back for Bogle, who could only lift it over the bar.
That proved to be Marshall’s last action as he was replaced by Arnold in Grimsby’s first substitution of the game.
Mackreth hit a shot from the edge of the box on the turn on 63 minutes but it lacked the power needed to test Jalal.
Another Town corner followed a mazy run from Arnold through the middle but the delivery was poor and Jalal plucked the ball out of the air at his far post.
Again, Town had dominated proceedings but again, they had failed to capitalise and again, they were made to pay when Macclesfield doubled their lead on 67 minutes.
Dennis held the ball up for winger Rowe and when he gave the ball back to DENNIS, the striker fired a volley beyond McKeown and into the far corner of his net for 2-0.
And it could have been three for the away side on 73 minutes, as Paul Lewis found Rowe but he shot just wide of the far post.
Town boss Paul Hurst’s second change was to send Pittman on in place of Tait, using the extra attacker in a bid to force a way back into the contest.
Dennis was booked on 76 minutes after an incident inside the Grimsby half but Macclesfield were looking more confident now and they had another chance to go 3-0 up with 11 minutes to go.
This time, a cross came in from the right and it was met by left-back Tony Diagne, who fizzed a volley just over the bar.
Town’s third and final substitution saw Disley sent on in place of Robinson in the centre of midfield.
A Mackreth cross from the right was headed wide by Bogle on 81 minutes, before Amond planted a header narrowly wide after another right-wing centre.
Four added minutes were signalled by the fourth official and the Mariners continued to attack, inning a corner on the left as they kept up their search for an unlikely route back into the game.
Dan Whitehead replaced Rowe for the away side before the corner was taken and when it did come across, Bogle could only head wide.
That proved to be Grimsby’s last chance to grab a goal, meaning they were left to reflect on a disappointing defeat.
The Mariners will now look to get back on track when they travel to Boreham Wood on Saturday.