Grimsby Town fell to a 3-1 defeat to Championship side Rotherham United in a behind-closed-doors pre-season friendly at New York Stadium as Michael Smith bagged a hat-trick for the Millers.
JJ Hooper opened the scoring for Michael Jolley’s side on 35 minutes as he latched onto Jordan Cook’s through-ball with a calm left-footed strike to the bottom-left corner.
But the home side came from behind to grab the win through a Michael Smith hat-trick in the final 35 minutes of the game.
The Mariners started the game, which was played in four 30-minute quarters, with James McKeown in goal and a back three of Harry Davis, Alex Whitmore, and Danny Collins in front of him.
Reece Hall-Johnson and Paul Dixon operated as wing-backs, while captain John Welsh, Jake Hessenthaler, and Mitch Rose made up the midfield three, with Cook partnering Hooper up front.
Town won the first corner of the game on six minutes as Hall-Johnson found space and made a darting run down the right before his cross was blocked, but the Mariners failed to make the set piece count as Davis’s header was cleared by the Millers.
The first real chance of the game came to Town on 28 minutes after good build-up play from Dixon and Hessenthaler down the left led to Hooper driving into the Millers’ box, but the striker’s side-footed effort curled just wide of the right post.
But Paul Warne’s side had the first chance of the second quarter, but Ajayi headed just wide of McKeown’s left post.
And Town broke the deadlock on 35 minutes as Cook played a neat ball through the middle of the Millers defence to find Hooper, who calmly slotted past the keeper with his left foot to make it 1-0.
The Millers came close to equalising on 43 minutes as Ryan Williams broke past Rose and cut inside before unleashing a powerful strike across goal, but Collins did well to head it off the line and keep Town in front.
And the home side had another good chance on 57 minutes, but McKeown leapt high to catch Ball’s powerful volley and deny him of the top-right corner.
But Town came back immediately and had a golden opportunity to double their lead a minute later as Hall-Johnson whipped in a low cross from the right to the back post where Cook played it back across goal to Hessenthaler, but the midfielder’s side-footed effort from close-range flew over the bar.
Michael Jolley made several changes at half-time as Andrew Fox, Akin Famewo, Harry Clifton, Martyn Woolford, and Louis Robles replaced Dixon, Whitmore, Hall-Johnson, Rose, and Cook.
The game continued to be tight, with neither side having too many clear-cut opportunities on goal, but Town kept their structure and had a strong midfield in their new-look 3-5-2 formation.
Williams broke down the left for Rotherham on 82 minutes and swung a ball into the box but Famewo did well to block Jon Taylor and stop the Millers in their tracks.
But the Millers were back on level terms on 87 minutes after Ajayi delivered a looping ball in from the right for Michael Smith to head across goal into the top-left corner and make it 1-1.
Sam Russell, Ahkeem Rose, Hall-Johnson, Whitmore, and two trialists replaced Welsh, Hessenthaler, Collins, Davis, Hooper, and McKeown ahead of the final quarter.
The home side got in front on 101 minutes as Smith rounded off a neat counter-attack to get his brace and make it 2-1.
And the centre-forward grabbed his hat-trick two minutes later as his close-ranged header beat Russell to make it 3-1.
Max Wright came on for Ahkeem Rose on 105 minutes for the final 15 minutes of the game.
Full-time: Rotherham United 3-1 Grimsby Town