GRIMSBY Town earned an important three points with victory over Colchester United at Blundell Park.
After defeat at Morecambe on Saturday, the Mariners produced a gritty performance full of effort and determination to get back to winning ways.
Sam Jones’ first goal for the club, scored three minutes before half-time, eventually proved enough to overcome a Colchester side who looked skilful in possession but rarely seriously threatened the home defence.
Town began with an XI which was unchanged from the loss on the Lancashire coast on Saturday, with James McKeown in goal behind a defence of Zak Mills, Shaun Pearson, Danny Collins and Danny Andrew.
Gavin Gunning took up a position in front of the back four, with Chris Clements and Jamey Osborne operating from the centre of midfield and Tom Bolarinwa in a more advanced role behind strikers Calum Dyson and Jones.
There were two changes on the Grimsby bench, as Dominic Vose and Scott Vernon replaced Craig Disley and Akwasi Asanti. The other subs were Ben Davies, Andrew Boyce, Brandon Comley, Adi Yussuf and Luke Maxwell.
Colchester made the long journey north looking for a result which would keep them in the play-off places.
The Essex side had won three and lost two of their previous five games and began the evening six points ahead of the Mariners.
Town had most of the early possession and Andrew won the first corner of the game on the left on four minutes. Collins won the header from the flag-kick but he could only send the ball wide.
A foul on Clements three minutes later brought a free kick, level with the left edge of the Colchester penalty area and Andrew’s delivery was headed out for a corner, which was cleared at the near post.
The away side had not caused any problems in the opening 10 minutes but they then went close to taking the lead when striker Tarique Fosu let fly from 25 yards with an effort which came back off the post, with McKeown beaten.
Colchester had grown into the game by the quarter-hour, looking neat and tidy in possession as the Mariners struggled to keep the ball for any length of time.
An intended ball from Mills for Bolarinwa was headed out for a corner by defender Matt Briggs but Andrew’s delivery from the right beat everybody and went out for a throw-in on the opposite side of the pitch.
Jones was given a warning by referee Darren Drysdale after a foul on Fosu, then another foul on the same man soon afterwards gave the visitors another free kick but McKeown was not tested on either occasion.
At the other end, a long throw from Mills was dealt with, before Osborne missed the target with a low shot from 20 yards which rolled wide of goalkeeper Sam Walker’s far post.
Jones set off on an attack for the hosts on 23 minutes and after linking up with Dyson, the former Gateshead man tried a shot from distance but saw his effort blocked.
Colchester then broke into the Town box twice in quick succession, with Owen Garvon eventually denied by McKeown. The resulting corner was played short to the edge of the box but when the shot came in, the ball went wide of the target.
A foul on Bolarinwa gave the Mariners an opportunity to put pressure on the away defence but before the free kick could be taken, McKeown went down with an injury and received treatment before being passed fit to play on. The opportunity was wasted though, as the offside flag was raised when the ball was played low towards the edge of the box.
Fosu was fouled on the edge of the Town box on 32 minutes but the resulting free kick hit the Town wall and the ball was then hammered clear after it was returned into the penalty area.
Colchester were faster to the ball than their hosts and quicker in their decision-making and had looked the more likely of the two sides to grab an opening goal.
But the Mariners were next to have a shooting chance, with Dyson flashing a low shot across and wide at the far post from 20 yards on 38 minutes.
Bolarinwa was adjudged to have been fouled near the right corner of the Colchester box soon afterwards but Andrew’s free kick hit the wall and bounced away for a throw-in.
When the first goal did come with 42 minutes on the clock, it was the Mariners who took the lead against the run of play. Dyson was the architect, picking up the ball in midfield, working his way into the box and getting to the byline before pulling it back for JONES to tap in from close range to open his account for the club.
Two added minutes were signalled to be played at the end of the half and a Colchester free kick on halfway gave them an opportunity to create some danger. That proved the case when the ball was headed behind for a corner but the flag-kick was headed clear.
That meant Town retained their lead at the interval, with Colchester looking the better of the two sides for much of the half but the Mariners ahead where it mattered.
No changes were made before the restart and a scuffed shot from Sean Murray gave McKeown his first routine save of the second half.
Mills had to clear off the line after a shot came in from inside the box soon afterwards, before a nice build-up led to Brennan Dickenson playing a ball across the six-yard line which would have only needed a touch to take it into the net but instead, rolled to safety.
Pearson was booked for a foul on Fosu, 30 yards from goal and left of centre. From the free kick, the ball was played to centre-back George Elokobi but he planted his header wide of the far post.
Town’s first shot of the second half saw Mills clear the crossbar with an attempt from 25 yards, before the first substitution of the game saw Comley replace Osborne in the home midfield on 56 minutes.
Fosu also hit a shot well over the bar as McKeown remained untroubled despite Colchester’s good build-up play.
Jones was fouled on the edge of the box to give the Mariners a good shooting chance three minutes after the hour. Clements took it but keeper Walker got across to make the stop.
At the other end, a long-range shot from Briggs almost caused a problem when McKeown failed to hold it but the keeper reacted quickly to gather it at the second attempt.
Good covering by Collins saw him clear the ball after Fosu had turned into the penalty area, before the centre-back was in the right place again to deal with a cross from the left.
Murray was shown the yellow card for his protests after a free kick was given to the Mariners inside their own half on 70 minutes, then striker Chris Porter was also booked soon afterwards following a poor challenge on Gunning.
Rekeil Pyke replaced Tom Lapslie in the Colchester midfield with 16 minutes to go, as the visitors continued to look for an equalising goal.
Bolarinwa showed good vision to play a ball through towards Jones soon afterwards but the striker was unable to reach it and the visitors cleared the danger.
Kane Vincent-Young was sent on in place of Drey Wright for the away side as the game moved into its last 10 minutes, before Fosu became the latest Colchester player to be booked after a trip on Mills.
Colchester created a chance after Collins lost possession but they were unable to profit from the mistake as a shot was saved by McKeown.
Vernon replaced Dyson in the Town attack for the final five minutes and soon afterwards, there was another opportunity for the visitors but Fosu could not capitalise after a cross fell to him at the far post.
The final Grimsby substitution saw Maxwell replace Jones with two minutes to go and a foul by Comley gave Colchester a free kick in a dangerous position seconds later, although Collins was in the right place to head it clear.
A Town break then saw Bolarinwa race clear but after he pulled the ball back across goal, nobody in black and white was there to put it into the net.
Five additional minutes were signalled to be played and Vernon had a run into the box but was eventually blocked before he could work an opening for a shot.
Colchester poured forward in search of a last-gasp leveller but the Town defence held firm and they got their reward when the final whistle blew.
The Mariners are next in action on Saturday, when Wycombe Wanderers are the visitors to Blundell Park.