Grimsby Town’s first game back in League Two ended in defeat as they were beaten by Leyton Orient.
The Mariners, backed by a big away following in east London on their return to the elite 92 clubs, created the better chances in an even first half but could not take any of them and the damage was then done in a seven-minute spell after the break.
George Moncur put Orient ahead from the penalty spot on 49 minutes after Luke Waterfall was ruled to have blocked his initial shot with his arm.
And the points were secured by the home side with an unstoppable strike from Tom James, who found the top corner of the net from 25 yards.
Paul Hurst’s first starting XI of the season included six of the team that began the National League Promotion Final victory over Solihull Moors on June 5, as well as four new signings and the fit-again Michee Efete.
Max Crocombe started in goal, with Efete operating at right-back and Andy Smith coming straight back in to partner Waterfall at the heart of the defence after re-joining the club on loan from Hull City earlier in the week. Anthony Glennon completed the back four, with Gavan Holohan, Kieran Green and Bryn Morris forming a midfield trio as Brendan Kiernan and Harry Clifton supported John McAtee in attack.
Seven substitutes can be named for League Two matches, so Ollie Batterby, Danny Amos, Shaun Pearson, Jordan Cropper, Stephen Wearne, Jordan Maguire-Drew and Ryan Taylor were all handed places on the bench.
Orient, playing in front of a big home crowd, were also looking to get the best possible start to their league campaign.
Former Town midfielder Craig Clay was a familiar face in their matchday squad, although he had to be content with a place among the subs.
The Mariners looked to have been dealt an immediate blow as McAtee left the field with what looked like a shoulder injury within seconds of kick-off, only for him to re-emerge from the tunnel soon afterwards and re-join the action.
Moncur had the first shooting chance of the game as he let fly from 20 yards for the hosts, although Crocombe was able to punch the ball clear of danger.
Smith received treatment after going down with a head injury on five minutes but was passed fit to continue, then Ruel Sotiriou fired just wide as Orient continued what had been a strong start to the game for them.
Efete had to head clear after a cross from the home right, before Town’s first opportunity of the game came on 12 minutes. It came from a great passage of play involving Glennon and Clifton down the left but when a low ball was played across for Efete, he could only hit keeper Lawrence Vigouroux from six yards.
Town won the first corner of the game but were unable to make it count, then Morris did well to get back and force Paul Smyth wide after a quick break, which led to the striker’s shot being blocked by Crocombe.
Smyth had another opportunity on 17 minutes as he beat the Town offside trap to get on the end of a floated ball over the top but again, he was unable to take it as he drilled a low shot just wide of the far post.
A volley from Holohan was saved at the other end soon afterwards, before another stoppage came when Green and Holohan clashed heads after both going for the same ball in the air near the dug-outs. Holohan came off worse and needed lengthy treatment but was eventually allowed to continue after being heavily bandaged.
Efete was unable to get enough on his header from a chipped Morris cross to trouble Vigouroux on 26 minutes, before a dangerous-looking home attack ended with the offside flag going up.
A foul on Clifton gave Town a free kick inside the Orient half on the half-hour, although the offside flag again went up as Smith met Glennon’s delivery into the penalty area.
The hosts won a free kick just outside the box at the other end as Smith was penalised for handball when he blocked a shot from Smyth. Moncur took it but Crocombe was not troubled as the ball flew wide.
The Mariners had a double chance when a volley from the edge of the box was spilled by Vigouroux but Clifton’s follow-up was blocked by the keeper. Seconds later, McAtee tried a lob from distance but the stopper got back to make a comfortable catch.
McAtee was involved again five minutes before the break when he took the ball forward and shot from 20 yards, although the attempt lacked power and the ball was stopped by the keeper.
Another stoppage came for Green to receive treatment after going down injured, then as the half moved into five added minutes, Orient’s Tom James was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon after catching Clifton with a late challenge. The resulting free kick was played short before being lofted into the box by Morris but Vigouroux came out to collect the ball.
Rob Hunt followed James into the referee’s notebook for a foul on Efete, after which the referee played a good advantage as Kiernan took the ball down the right, only for his cross to drift out for a goal kick.
McAtee missed the target with a blast from 25 yards in what turned out to be the last chance of the half for either side, with the score remaining goalless at the interval.
Orient had started well and looked the more dangerous in attack but Town grew into the game as the half went on and it was the visitors who had created the better chances over the course of the opening 45 minutes.
No changes were made before the restart and Town had the first opening as Kiernan linked up with McAtee down the right, although he was unable to pick out Clifton in the middle.
A better chance came seconds later as this time, McAtee linked up with Efete but when the ball was played in to Holohan, his shot was off-target.
At the other end, the home side were given a golden opportunity to open the scoring on 49 minutes as the referee ruled Waterfall had blocked a shot from Moncur with his arm inside the box and pointed to the penalty spot. Despite protests from the Mariners and their fans, the decision stood and MONCUR stepped up to beat the dive of Crocombe and find the bottom corner of the net.
Efete did well to stop Moncur on the home left on 56 minutes, at the expense of a corner. But from the flag, Orient went on to double their advantage as Town failed to fully clear the danger and when the ball dropped for JAMES, he fired a superb first-time shot past Crocombe and into the top corner.
Clay replaced Rob Hunt as the hosts made the first substitution of the game three minutes later, before a Town corner from Glennon was comfortably cleared at the near post.
Holohan was beaten by Theo Archibald down the home right on the hour but this time, the danger was cleared for a throw-in, which led to Moncur firing over the bar.
Maguire-Drew and Taylor were sent on in place of Kiernan and Green with 25 minutes to go as Town looked for a way back into the contest.
Soon afterwards, Glennon was booked for a foul on Archibald and the free kick led to Clifton slicing the ball over his own bar for a corner. The ball from the flag was played short and Archibald threaded a pass through for Sotiriou, who sent a low shot just wide.
A foul on McAtee gave Town a free kick in a promising position on the right but before it was taken, Harry Smith replaced Smyth for the home side. Maguire-Drew’s free kick was too close to Vigouroux, who claimed the catch, then Taylor was booked for preventing the keeper from clearing the ball.
Cropper and Wearne replaced Glennon and Clifton on 77 minutes, before Jordan Sweeney came on in place of Sotiriou for Orient three minutes later.
Omar Beckles was booked for bringing Efete down inside the Town half on 87 minutes and soon afterwards, the Marines won a throw-in much further up the pitch, on the right. Cropper’s long throw was flicked on by Taylor for Waterfall but his volley was blocked.
Another Cropper throw was claimed by Vigouroux, before McAtee became the second Town attacker to be yellow-carded for preventing the goalkeeper from making a clearance.
Crocombe then got a fingertip to a low strike from Archibald at the other end to take it away for an Orient corner but the hosts were unable to profit from the flag-kick.
Five added minutes were played at the end of the game and Town were unable to force a consolation goal as Orient closed out their win.
For the Mariners, attention will now turn to next Saturday’s first home game of the season, when Northampton Town will be the visitors to Blundell Park.