Grimsby Town began the new decade with a long-awaited return to winning ways as they beat Salford City at Blundell Park.
With new manager Ian Holloway watching on, the Mariners secured a hard-earned three points to get 2020 off to a perfect start.
Both teams created chances in what was an equally-matched contest but it was substitute Ahkeem Rose who grabbed the vital goal with six minutes left to seal a first league win for Town since late September.
Anthony Limbrick’s final team selection before reverting back to the role of assistant manager showed one change from the draw with Crawley at the weekend as Jordan Cook replaced Matt Green.
James McKeown started in goal, with Luke Hendrie, Harry Davis, Luke Waterfall and Liam Gibson forming the defence.
Harry Clifton, Jake Hessenthaler and Ethan Robson were the midfielders, with Max Wright, Charles Vernam and Cook in attack.
The Town substitutes were Rose, Elliott Whitehouse, Harry Cardwell, Elliott Hewitt, Moses Ogbu, Sam Russell and Mattie Pollock.
Salford arrived in Cleethorpes full of confidence after an excellent Christmas programme had seen them beat high-flying Crewe Alexandra at home and Oldham Athletic away, scoring seven goals in the process.
Manager Graham Alexander would look to the likes of strikers Brandon Asante and Adam Rooney to keep that winning run going.
Town started brightly and Wright worked an opening for a cross from the right on five minutes but Vernam was unable to get a touch to the ball to turn it towards goal.
At the other end, Hendrie had to make a vital interception to stop a cross by Craig Conway from reaching Jake Jervis, who was waiting to connect with a volley.
Asante hit a low shot from 20 yards that was comfortably stopped by McKeown, before a good move down the Grimsby right led to Robson taking the ball into the Salford penalty area but his shot was blocked.
Asante was providing the main Salford threat and he created another opportunity on 17 minutes, getting down the right before playing the ball back to Rooney, who side-footed just wide from 12 yards.
Rooney went close again when he met a Jervis cross from the left but the striker’s downward header was well-saved by McKeown, who dived to push the ball away.
A cross-shot from Verman on the left had to be touched onto the bar by Salford keeper Christopher Neal, with the ball bouncing away for a throw-in.
Town forced a corner on the left on 23 minutes but Hessenthaler’s ball was headed clear by Rooney.
A let-off in defence came when Waterfall slipped and let Asante in but after he pulled the ball back, it was missed by Rooney.
Hendrie then won a Mariners corner on the right but they were unable to turn it into a goalscoring opportunity as the ball was cleared.
An effort by Vernam was blocked after a great ball from Clifton had found the striker on the left.
Cook went down with an injury just after the half-hour and was unable to continue, meaning Town were forced into making the first substitution of the afternoon as Ogbu came on in his place.
Ogbu could not profit from a Wright cross as his header went away from goal after a good possession move from the hosts.
A free-kick soon afterwards to the right of the penalty area led to Robson’s ball being cleared, then a Salford attack led to midfielder Daniel Whitehead firing over the bar from 20 yards.
A good chance came when a throw-in led to Ogbu laying the ball off for Hessenthaler but the midfielder couldn’t hit the target as his shot flew over the bar.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the half and with no further chances created by either side, the game remained goalless at the break.
No further changes were made before the restart and the first opportunity of the second half fell to Vernam, who cut in from the left and hit a low shot that was stopped by Neal.
Hendrie flashed a cross over from the right on 50 minutes which was deflected out for a corner but Hessenthaler’s delivery was caught by the keeper.
A foul on Asante gave Salford a free kick on the left soon afterwards but the ball from it was headed wide by Rooney.
Another effort by Vernam was blocked, before a foul by Richard Towell earned him a yellow card and gave Town a free-kick inside the Salford half. The ball was eventually played to Wright but his low cross was blocked.
The Mariners were starting to get on top and they won a corner on the left on 62 minutes. Hessenthaler’s delivery was cleared, as was a return ball into the box after the hosts retained possession.
A free-kick from the Salford left was not fully dealt with by the Town defence until a shot by Asante was blocked by Davis for a corner, which led to Rooney sending a first-time effort over the bar.
Rose replaced Clifton on 70 minutes and joined Ogbu upfront as the home side switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Vernam and Wright operating as wingers.
The visitors made a change of their own soon afterwards as Emmanuel Dieseruvwe replaced Rooney and there was an opportunity for them soon afterwards but Asante’s low shot was saved by McKeown.
At the other end, Rose narrowly failed to connect with a low ball from Vernam across the six-yard line as Town had a good spell of pressure.
Salford should have taken the lead on 81 minutes but after Asante, who had been impressive throughout the contest, was presented with a seemingly simple finish from close range, he somehow managed to miss.
And the visitors were made to pay when the deadlock was finally broken on 84 minutes and the Mariners opened the scoring. Vernam drove into the box and pulled the ball back for ROSE, who hit a low shot on the turn which beat the dive of Neal and found the bottom corner of the net.
Cardwell replaced Wright for the final few minutes of the game as Luke Armstrong replaced Whitehead for Salford.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the game before Town and their fans were finally able to celebrate a win.
The Mariners are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Mansfield Town.
Town: McKeown (c), Hendrie, Waterfall, Davis, Gibson, Clifton, Robson, Hessenthaler, Cook, Vernam, Wright.
Subs: Rose, Cardwell, Ogbu, Hewitt, Pollock, Whitehouse, Russell.
Salford: Neal, Threlkeld, Touray, Hogan (C), Burgess, Towell, Jervis, Whitehead, Conway, Thomas-Asante, Rooney.
Subs: Letheren, Hughes, Piergianni, Wiseman, Armstrong, Dieseruvwe.
Referee: Martin Coy
Attendance: 4555 (138)
Possession: Town 59%-41% Salford
Next Up: Mansfield Town (A)