Grimsby Town fell to a heavy defeat against promotion-chasing Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena.
The Mariners were undone by a Marc McNulty hat-trick which followed Peter Vincenti’s opening goal.
After an encouraging opening to the game from the visitors gave their 878 travelling supporters some hope, Vincenti’s header on 38 minutes had Coventry in the lead at half-time.
And they pushed on after the break, with leading scorer McNulty’s treble ensuring Grimsby’s winless run moved to 18 games.
Five changes were made to the Town side that lost to Lincoln City last week, with Zak Mills, Siriki Dembele, Sean McAllister, Mallik Wilks and Gary McSheffrey the ones to come into the starting XI.
James McKeown started in goal, with Ben Davies, Mills, Danny Collins and Andrew Fox forming the defence.
Dembele, McAllister, Harry Clifton and Martyn Woolford were the midfielders, with Wilks and McSheffrey making up a new-look strike partnership.
Nathan Clarke, James Berrett, Jamille Matt and Reece Hall-Johnson all dropped to the bench after starting against Lincoln last week. They were joined as substitutes by Ben Killip, Diallang Jaiyesimi and Scott Vernon.
Coventry began the afternoon in the final play-off position in League Two and were looking for three points to continue their promotion push.
Town began brightly and won a corner on five minutes, which turned into another after McSheffrey’s delivery was heaed behind. This time, it was headed clear at the near post.
The home side’s first attack of note came on nine minutes and led to a chance for McNulty but his curling shot glanced off the head of Collins for a corrner, which was directed off-target by Vincenti.
Another Grimsby corner was won by Wilks two minutes later and after the ball from it broke back to McSheffrey, his delivery was met by Fox but the defender could only divert it through to home keeper Lee Burge.
Dembele and Wilks both almost had opportunities to get a shot in as Town’s encouraging opening to the game continued but both were thwarted by good defending from the hosts.
A foul by Dembele gave the home side a free kick on 24 minutes but it was cleared, before another Coventry attack ended with a foul on Dembele.
The hosts attacked again through Jack Grimmer on the half-hour but after he crossed, McNulty’s header was saved by McKeown.
Town’s next corner came soon afterwards but when McSheffrey’s delivery from the flag was headed towards goal by Mills, it was inadvertently blocked by Wilks.
Tom Bayliss made some space for a shot on 35 minutes but was caught out by the pitch as the ball bobbled in front of him and as a result, he sent his effort well wide.
A free kick for the hosts came soon afterwards after a Town handball and it eventually led to another one after Mills was adjudged to have committed a foul. This time, the Mariners were to fall behind as Jordan Shipley’s delivery was headed into the net by VINCENTI.
Town’s response saw McSheffrey swing a ball into the Coventry penalty area but nobody in black and white was able to get on the end of it.
One additional minute was signalled to be played at the end of the half and with no further chances coming for either side before the referee’s half-time whistle, the home side held their single-goal advantage at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and the first action of the second half saw Dembele set off on a run but his cross was headed away. Woolford’s rebound was blocked and Coventry launched a quick break which led to McNulty heading down for strike-partner Jonson Clarke-Harris, who shot over the bar.
McAllister fired wide from the edge of the box, before a Coventry free kick was cleared by Mills for a throw-in.
A shot from Shipley deflected off Collins for a Coventry corner on 55 minutes but the ball from the flag beat everybody and was retrieved by Mills near the touchline.
But soon afterwards, it was 2-0 to the hosts when a ball over the top from Michael Doyle saw Clarke-Harris get in behind the Town defence and after he squared it, McNULTY had a simple tap-in.
Vernon replaced Wilks as Town made their first substitution of the game after the goal, before Jaiyesimi came on for Woolford and McAllister made way for Berrett as all three changes were made in quick succession.
Clifton fired over the bar from the edge of the box after good play by Jaiyesimi and Vernon as Town looked to haul themselves back into the game.
Vernon then managed to get an effort on target from a narrow angle but the ball was headed off the line.
A double substitution for the home side saw Bayliss and Vincenti replaced by Kyel Reid and Liam Kelly on 74 minutes.
McKeown made a good save after Clarke-Harris beat Mills to a ball inside the box on aftrwards but from the resulting corner, Coventry did stretch their lead. The keeper managed to get fingertips to a header from McNULTY but could do nothing to stop the striker when he pounced to convert the rebound.
Max Biamou replaced Clarke-Harris in the home side’s third and final substitution, before Reid brought a save out of McKeown after running at the Town defence.
Appeals for a penalty from McNulty went unrewarded as he went down under a challenge inside the Grimsby box, before Biamou was adjudged to have committed a foul as another attack broke down.
The hosts did get a fourth goal with three minutes to go though, as a ball from Reid on the right was headed by Collins but it fell for McNULTY, who finised well to complete his hat-trick.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the game before Coventry’s victory was confirmed, as the Mariners were left to count the cost of another defeat.
Town are next in action on Good Friday, when Stevenage are the visitors to Blundell Park.
1 Lee Burge
2 Jack Grimmer
24 Ryan Haynes
15 Dominic Hyam
5 Rod McDonald
30 Tom Bayliss
7 Peter Vincenti
8 Michael Doyle (C)
26 Jordan Shipley
18 Jonson Clarke-Harris
10 Marc McNulty
13 Liam O’Brien
3 Chris Stokes
27 Josh Barrett
6 Liam Kelly
32 Kyel Reid
9 Maxime Biamou
38 Jordan Ponticelli
1 James McKeown
2 Ben Davies
23 Andrew Fox
12 Zak Mills
6 Danny Collins (C)
4 Sean McAllister
15 Harry Clifton
10 Gary McSheffrey
25 Martyn Woolford
18 Mallik Wilks
27 Siriki Dembele
30 Ben Killip
5 Nathan Clarke
31 Reece Hall-Johnson
7 James Berrett
20 Diallang Jaiyesimi
29 Jamille Matt
21 Scott Vernon
Attendance: 8755 (878)
Referee: Ollie Yates
Next Up: Stevenage – Friday 30th March