Grimsby Town’s preparations for the new season continued with a narrow defeat against Blackburn Rovers at Blundell Park.
A single goal, scored by striker Danny Graham just after the hour, proved enough to give Tony Mowbray’s side the win.
After a young Town side lost at Boston United in the Lincolnshire Senior Cup on Saturday, boss Russell Slade turned back to his first-team squad for the visit of League One Rovers.
James McKeown started in goal, with Zak Mills, Nathan Clarke, Danny Collins, trialist left-back Jordan Mustoe, James Berrett, Mitch Rose, Sam Kelly, Siriki Dembele, Sam Jones and Scott Vernon making up the starting XI.
Rovers, fresh from relegation to the third tier, named a strong line-up including former Sunderland and Swansea forward Graham and ex-Celtic man Charlie Mulgrew.
Town’s first opportunity of the game came from the corner flag, where a short delivery on the right eventually led to a header from Collins being blocked.
A shot at the other end flew wide of McKeown’s target, before good skill by Dembele saw him beat his man to the delight of the home fans, although the attack did not lead to a chance in front of goal.
The home side’s best opportunity of the game so far came two minutes after the half-hour and again, Dembele was involved as he met Kelly’s left-wing cross at the far post. He took a touch before shooting but the effort was blocked by Blackburn keeper David Raya at his near post.
Three minutes later, Dembele aimed to get on the end of a through-ball into the box but Raya got there first and stopped the danger.
A 25-yard volley was saved by McKeown as Blackburn looked to create some danger before half-time but it was the Mariners who were almost gifted an opening goal when a mistake at the back let Jones in. The attacker got a touch to the ball but could not divert it towards goal and Rovers recovered to clear.
Two substitutions were made by the away side at the break as Town stuck with the same XI for the start of the second half.
The Mariners were the first to threaten after the interval when a shot by Jones from 20 yards was deflected wide for a corner, which was headed away from danger.
But when the deadlock was broken, it was Blackburn who took the lead, as a shot from substitute Bradley Dack was turned into the net by Graham from 10 yards.
The goal proved the signal for Town to make their first changes, with Tom Bolarinwa and Luke Summerfield replacing Kelly and Dembele.
Graham hit a first-time shot over the bar after spotting McKeown off his line, before a corner at the other end saw Clarke have a header cleared off the line.
Three more Grimsby substitutions came on 71 minutes as Harry Cardwell, Karleigh Osborne and Ben Davies replaced Vernon, Clarke and Rose.
Mills hit a shot well over the bar from the edge of the penalty area six minutes later, before Adi Yussuf and trialist Jamal Roberts became the latest to come on, as Jones and Mustoe made way.
Town finished the game mostly on the attack, with a free kick from Davies being headed clear before Collins glanced a header off-target from a corner.
But the home side were ultimately unable to force an equaliser as Blackburn returned to Lancashire with a win.
Grimsby’s pre-season programme now moves onto a game at Winterton Rangers on Thursday, before Wigan Athletic visit Blundell Park on Saturday for the final friendly ahead of the start of the league season at Chesterfield on August 5.
GTFC Starting XI: McKeown, Mills, Collins, Clarke, Mustoe, Berrett, M. Rose, Kelly, Dembele, Jones, Vernon.
Subs: Killip, K. Osborne, Cardwell, Davies, Yussuf, Summerfield, Bolarinwa, Roberts, Wright, Keeble, Sawyer.