GRIMSBY Town’s Checkatrade Trophy campaign ended with their third defeat in the competition as League One Sheffield United won at Blundell Park.
On a cold night and watched by a new club record lowest home attendance of 597, the Mariners took the lead through Kayden Jackson and retained their advantage at the break.
The visitors equalised eight minutes after the restart when Regan Slater made it 1-1, before an Andrew Boyce own-goal gave them the lead.
The Blades looked to have put the result beyond doubt when they grabbed a third through skipper Jack O’Connell but Craig Disley pulled one back for the Mariners.
Substitute Leon Clarke had the final say though, making it 4-2 and ensuring new manager Marcus Bignot’s first game in charge of Town ended in defeat.
Six changes were made to the Town side that lost at Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup on Saturday, with Andy Warrington, Shaun Pearson, Boyce, Dan Jones, Ashley Chambers and Jackson all coming in.
Warrington replaced the suspended James McKeown in goal, with Zak Mills, Pearson, Boyce and Jones forming the defence.
Chambers, Disley, Brandon Comley and James Berrett were the midfielders, with Scott Vernon lining up alongside Jackson in attack.
The Town substitutes were Danny Andrew, Josh Gowling, Luke Summerfield, Rhys Browne, Dominic Vose, Tom Bolarinwa and Shaun Tuton.
The Mariners won the game’s first corner in the second minute but Berrett’s delivery was cleared.
Midfielder Ben Whiteman was the first to call Warrington into action at the other end, although the keeper only had to make a comfortable catch from the 25-yard shot.
Jackson looked to have an opportunity on eight minutes but he opted to turn inside the box and was crowded out by defenders.
A low cross by Comley on the right was not properly dealt with by visiting keeper George Long but Kieron Freeman brought the ball clear for the away side.
But the next time the Mariners went forward on 15 minutes, they took the lead. Vernon played the ball through for strike-partner JACKSON and he ran through unchallenged and kept his composure to slot it past Long and into the bottom corner of the net.
Pearson had to head the ball out for a corner as the Blades looked to hit back but the delivery from the flag caused no problems for the Town defence.
A late challenge on Chambers gave the hosts a free kick midway inside their oponents’ half on 22 minutes but after it was initially played short, Berrett’s ball into the box was cleared.
A long throw from Jones was cleared, before Jackson headed wide following a cross from the left.
Mills had two opportunities in quick succession to use his long throw from the opposite flank soon afterwards, although neither led to a chance in front of goal.
Town had a great chance to go 2-0 up just before the half-hour when a ball over the top from Berrett found the run of Jackson. Again, the striker found himself one-on-one with Long but this time, his shot was blocked by the keeper.
At the other end, a shot from a narrow angle on the left went harmlessly wide, before a foul on the edge of the Town penalty area gave the away side a free kick, which led to a shot being blocked.
The visitors were doing most of the attacking but the Mariners were defending well, with Warrington’s goal rarely coming under threat.
And the keeper remained untroubled when Lavery fired over the bar from the away side’s next chance, before defender Reece Brown sent a free header wide of the mark after meeting the ball from a David Brooks free kick.
Warrington came out to catch a corner from the left as the Blades continued to attack, before a flag-kick from the opposite side was headed away by Boyce.
A foul by Pearson on Lavery gave the South Yorkshire side a free kick on the right but the delivery into the box was headed away by Boyce.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and with no further chances created by either side before the referee’s half-time whistle, the Mariners retained their one-goal advantage at the interval.
Matt Done replaced Freeman for the away side before the restart and Town won a corner within a minute when a low cross from Jones was diverted behind. Pearson met the ball with a header from it but he was penalised for an infringement.
At the other end, Warrington had to dive to stop a shot by Whiteman from distance, before Done hesitated when he could have shot, allowing Boyce to force him wide.
A good touch from Berrett loked to have sent Chambers away through the middle but he was unable to capitalise, then Mills did well to get back and challenge Done as the visitors looked to break.
But the next time the Blades went forward, they were level. SLATER was the scorer, drilling a low effort past the dive of Warrington and into the net from 20 yards.
Browne replaced Vernon and Bolarinwa came on for Berrett as the new Town manager made a double substitution on 56 minutes.
The first yellow card came soon afterwards for a foul on Jackson by Slater, with Chris Basham soon following him into the referee’s notebook for a late challenge on Bolarinwa. Chambers’ free kick was headed away at the near post.
Leon Clarke replaced Lavery in the Blades’ attack on 63 minutes and the substitute’s first action was to be caught offside.
Clarke had a chance to put his side ahead four minutes after he came off the bench, picking the ball up on the edge of the box and working an opening for himself, but his shot went just wide of the far post.
Boyce and Pearson had to be alert to stop a cross reaching Clarke soon afterwards, as the much-improved visitors continued to push for a second goal.
A foul by Boyce on Done gave them a free kick midway inside the Town half but the chip to the far post from Jordan Hallam was headed clear by Pearson.
Sheffield United hit the front for the first time in the game with 17 minutes to go, when a low ball across the six-yard line from the right was diverted past Warrington by the unfortunate Boyce for an own-goal.
Tuton came on in place of Chambers on 76 minutes, with Joseph Cummings replacing Basham for the away side at the same time.
Soon afterwards, the result was seemingly put beyond doubt when the visitors made it 3-1. A short corner routine led to the ball being played to captain O’CONNELL and he chested it past Warrington from close range.
But Town were not done yet and they reduced the deficit to one goal with nine minutes to go. A powerful long-range drive from Comley was not held by Long and DISLEY was in the right place to slot the rebound into the net.
A foul by Bolarinwa on Done near the corner flag gave the Blades another chance to get the ball into the danger zone but Hallam’s delivery was straight at Warrington in the Town goal.
The away side did get their two-goal lead back with four minutes to go though, as CLARKE picked the ball up on the edge of the penalty area and advanced before crashing a shot past Warrington at his near post for 4-2.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the game before the 179 travelling supporters from Sheffield were left to cheer the final whistle.
Attention now switches to Saturday, when the Mariners host Barnet for Bignot’s first league game in charge.