GRIMSBY Town made it three wins in a row with a victory over Braintree Town at Blundell Park.
As was the case with the midweek success against Telford, one goal just after half-time proved to be enough for the Mariners to claim all three points, as captain Craig Disley headed what proved to be the winner.
Braintree had missed the best chance of the first half when striker Sean Marks failed to find the net within the opening five minutes.
And the visitors were invited into the game in the later stages of the contest as Town looked to hold onto their narrow advantage.
But they were unable to capitalise as the hosts held firm and after midfielder Chez Isaac was sent off for a second bookable offence, the Mariners saw the game out to move up to third in the Conference table.
One change was made to the Town side that won on Tuesday, with Jon-Paul Pittman given a start in attack in place of Christian Jolley, who dropped to the bench.
James McKeown started in goal, with Carl Magnay, Toto Nsiala, Shaun Pearson and Gregor Robertson in defence.
Jack Mackreth, Disley, Craig Clay and Nathan Arnold were the midfielders, with Lenell John-Lewis joining Pittman up front.
Ollie Palmer made a return to the bench after overcoming an injury. He was joined by Jolley, Ross Hannah, Scott Brown and Daniel Parslow.
Braintree travelled north for the third in a tough run of consecutive away fixtures which had seen them lose to FC Halifax and new league leaders Bristol Rovers in their previous fixtures.
Alan Devonshire’s side would look to strikers Marks and Simeon Akinola to fire the Iron towards a positive result to take back to Essex.
Town started positively, looking to keep the ball on the ground and build up attacks.
Braintree almost had the first chance of the game though, when Marks appeared to beat Pearson to a header on the edge of the Town box, only for a free kick to be given in Grimsby’s favour and the striker shown the first yellow card of the game for a push on the centre-back.
The visitors then thought they had taken the lead on five minutes, when Marks was kept out by McKeown, before he seemed to be set to bundle the rebound in but again, the keeper got to the ball to stop it crossing the line. After a scramble in the six-yard box, it finally fell for Kenny Davis but he could only clear the bar with his shot.
Town won the game’s first corner through Mackreth three minutes later but Arnold’s delivery beat everybody and was brought clear by Braintree.
The visitors were looking marginally the better side as the quarter-hour approached and they almost had another opportunity after Nsiala gave the ball away but Akinola could only run it out of play for a goal kick.
A towering header down the pitch by Pearson gave Pittman something to chase son afterwards but defender Remi Clerima got to the ball first and headed it back to his goalkeeper, Nick Hamann.
The away side made the first substitution with just 18 minutes on the clock, as Joe Maybanks replaced James Mulley.
Disley was adjudged to have fouled the substitute on the halfway line but the resulting free kick was poor and Town broke through John-Lewis. He found strike-partner Pittman but a heavy first touch took the ball through to Hamann.
After the early Braintree chance, the game had taken a downward turn in quality, with neither side able to put their stamp on it and goalmouth action at a premium as a succession of fouls on either side led to a stop-start pattern.
Magnay had to go off for treatment after picking up a cut and was forced to wait to rejoin the action as referee John Brooks delayed allowing him to come back on.
Town had a short spell around the half-hour which suggested signs of promise, as first Pittman got a cross in from the right, then a through-ball by Arnold proved just too far ahead of John-Lewis inside the penalty area.
At the other end, a foul by Robertson gave the visitors a free kick near the right touchline but when the ball was driven into the box, Disley stooped to head it clear.
John-Lewis did well to get on the end of a long ball and win a throw-in near the corner flag on 34 minutes and from it, the ball was worked to Pittman but his back-heel was intercepted before it could reach John-Lewis.
A driving run by Pearson soon afterwards took him to the edge of the Braintree box but he could not get past Clarima, who cleared the danger.
Maybanks looked to create an opening down the left for the visitors on 39 minutes but it was not to be, as he ran the ball out of play for a goal kick.
Midfielder Chez Isaac was booked for a foul on John-Lewis, while the Town striker and Braintree captain Davis were also yellow-carded for their reactions to the challenge. The free kick was hoisted into the box by McKeown and turned into another, much closer to the goal, when Clay was fouled.
Two added minutes were signalled before the free kick was taken by Arnold, whose shot hit the away wall and went out for a throw.
Another yellow card came out, this time for Disley, after a collision with left-back Sam Habergham, in the second of the extra minutes.
It proved to be the last meaningful action of a frustrating first half which had seen little in the way of goalscoring opportunities.
Braintree had created the best chance of the half early on but after that, neither goalkeeper had been seriously tested.
For the Mariners, it seemed as though patience would be the key if they were to force a breakthrough in the second half, while the away side would have been relatively happy to go in level.
No changes were made before the restart and an Arnold free kick gave the chance for Town to put some early pressure on the Braintree goal until the ball was eventually hoisted clear by Mitch Brundle.
The Mariners took the lead with their next attack, when an inch-perfect ball from Magnay was met by DISLEY and his superb looping header beat keeper Hamann and dropped into the net.
A foul on Pittman by Habergham on the Town right brought another free kick on 52 minutes but Disley headed wide after meeting Arnold’s delivery at the far post.
Town were now on top and they looked to make it 2-0 when John-Lewis took the ball on the left and sent a low cross over for Pittman but he could not turn it goalwards and a goal kick was the result.
Akinola fell over Magnay to win a free kick on 63 minutes but the visitors were unable to create anything of note from the dead-ball opportunity.
At the other end, Mackreth cut in from the right but fired his shot over the bar from the edge of the box.
Grimsby’s first substitution saw Jolley replace Arnold on 67 minutes, with the former Newport attacker slotting in on the left.
Town were looking comfortable but they were almost given a shock when a dipping volley from Brundle on the Braintree right narrowly missed the target with 20 minutes to go.
At the other end, John-Lewis dragged a low shot wide of the far post from the right of the penalty area.
Brown was sent on for Clay in Town boss Paul Hurst’s second change on 74 minutes, before Braintree’s Ryan Peters replaced Maybanks – who had come off the bench himself earlier in the game – two minutes later.
As there had been on Tuesday against Telford, there appeared to be some signs of nerves as the Mariners looked to defend their one-goal advantage and their visitors pressed for a way back into the contest.
It was the orange-clad away side who were coming forward more as the game passed the 80-minute mark, with Town looking to hold onto their 1-0 scoreline.
That could have changed when Mackreth set off on a pacy run down the right, only to be brought down by Habergham, who was booked for the professional foul.
Parslow replaced John-Lewis as the Mariners looked to an extra defensive-minded player to help ensure they held onto their lead.
A bad foul on Jolley brought a second yellow card for Isaac, who was then shown the red card by Mr Brooks, meaning the visitors were reduced to 10 men for the last four minutes.
That was added to by three extra minutes signalled by the fourth official as Braintree continued to look for a leveller and the nervy ending to the game continued for the home players and fans.
The away side pumped a free kick from the right into the Town box in the second of the added minutes but Marks could not guide a free header from it into the net, instead watching it go past the post for a goal kick.
Akinola then fired over the bar from 18 yards after the Mariners failed to clear their lines but that proved to be the visitors’ last chance as the final whistle blew soon afterwards.
It had not been pretty, but the Mariners had managed to grind out another vital victory to move up a place in the league table and keep them firmly in the hunt for promotion.
Town are next in action when they go to Woking on Saturday.