Grimsby Town were beaten by ten-man Newport County despite a much-improved performance at Rodney Parade.
On a difficult pitch in south Wales, the Mariners looked confident and played plenty of good football during a first half which they dominated.
The visitors had a numerical advantage after Scot Bennett was shown a straight red card eight minutes before half-time but when the deadlock was broken on 51 minutes, it was the home side’s Nicky Maynard who scored what proved to be the winning goal.
Town poured forward in search of a deserved equaliser but it was not to come as Newport held on for all three points.
Three new signings were handed their Grimsby debuts from the start as Jake Eastwood, Joe Adams and Joe Bunney came straight into the team, with fellow new recruits Lenell John-Lewis and Julien Lamy selected on the bench.
Eastwood, Adams and Bunney formed three of the six changes to manager Paul Hurst’s starting XI following the home defeat by Stevenage last week as Stefan Payne was handed his first start and Elliott Hewitt and Harry Clifton both returned to the line-up.
James McKeown, Luke Hendrie, Mattie Pollock, Sam Habergham, Danny Rose and Ira Jackson Jr made way.
Eastwood began in goal, with Hewitt, Waterfall, Menayese and Bunney forming the defence.
Adams, Clifton, Jay Matete and Idris El Mizouni were the midfielders and James Hanson partnered Payne in attack.
The Town substitutes were McKeown, Hendrie, Pollock, Habergham, John-Lewis, Lamy and Luke Spokes.
Newport had been on a poor run of form which had seen them slip out of League Two’s play-off zone and they sat in eighth place ahead of the game but Michael Flynn’s men remained just two points off the automatic promotion places at kick-off.
Maynard made his first start for the Welsh side since joining on loan from Mansfield, while former Mariners favourite Padraig Amond had to be content with a place among the substitutes.
A long throw from Mickey Demetriou brought the first opportunity for Newport to attack but striker Dom Telford committed a foul as the ball was thrown into the penalty area.
At the other end, Payne got his head to a cross from Matete but the ball went through to home keeper Nick Townsend.
Townsend beat Payne to another ball into the Newport box on five minutes and a Hanson cross from the right went out for a goal kick as Town’s bright start continued.
Telford failed to control the ball after a low cross from Luke Gambin, then Newport defender David Longe-King had to make a clearance after a good attacking move down the Grimsby right led to Adams sending a low cross over.
The Mariners won the game’s first corner on 14 minutes after Hewitt went on a run down the right and crossed for Hanson, whose header was tipped over the bar by Townsend. The ball from the flag fell for Hanson but he shot off-target.
Newport’s first corner came three minutes later but Demetriou’s ball went all the way across the penalty area before it was cleared.
A foul by El Mizouni gave the hosts a free kick midway inside the Town half but the delivery from it was headed clear.
A cross from Adams on the right saw Townsend do well to beat Payne to the ball, before a follow-up delivery from the left was met by Hanson but his header was deflected wide for a corner.
The Mariners had started well and looked the better of the two teams at the midway point in the first half.
But they had a scare when a short back-pass by Waterfall almost let Telford in. Eastwood was aware of the danger though and he raced off his line to clear the ball.
A foul on Payne gave Town a free kick in a good position on the right on 26 minutes. Bunney eventually sent the ball into the box after an initial short pass but when it dropped for Waterfall, his shot was blocked.
El Mizouni forced Townsend into action with a low drive from 25 yards just before the half-hour, with the keeper diving to make the stop.
Townsend then made another good save after Adams’ low cross found Payne, who turned and shot but saw his effort pushed away at the near post.
A foul by Matete gave Newport a free kick on the left but Dolan’s delivery into the box was headed clear by Waterfall. Dolan chipped the ball back into the penalty area and this time, Menayese was in the right place to calmly head it back to Eastwood.
The hosts were then reduced to 10 men with eight minutes to go before the break as Bennett was sent off for a poor, late challenge on Payne on the halfway line.
A cross from Josh Sheehan on the Newport left went harmlessly through to Eastwood as the hosts struggled to cause serious problems.
Matete was brought down by Demetriou to give Town a free kick in a central position, around 30 yards from goal, as the half moved into two added minutes. Bunney’s shot was held by Townsend.
At the other end, a Telford header was blocked and a volley by Ryan Haynes was deflected behind for a corner. Matty Dolan’s flag-kick was headed clear by Waterfall.
That proved to be the last opportunity of a half which the Mariners had dominated, playing some good football and creating the better chances, albeit with the score remaining goalless.
Priestley Farquharson replaced Ash Baker for Newport before the restart and the substitute’s long throw led to the first goalmouth action of the second half, with Waterfall heading clear.
Another long throw was also cleared by Waterfall, before a cross from Adams was caught by Townsend after a good run down the right by the Brentford loanee.
Gambin cut in from the home right and tried a shot from the corner of the penalty area on 50 minutes but his effort lacked direction.
But the next home attack brought the game’s opening goal. Another long throw was headed clear but after Dolan’s low shot was blocked, the ball broke for MAYNARD and he slotted past Eastwood from 12 yards.
Newport had started the second half well and they had the ball in the net again on 53 minutes through Gambin, although the offside flag had already gone up and so the goal was disallowed.
El Mizouni fired over the bar as Town started to come back into the game, with Adams then sending a right-wing cross out for a goal kick after a good spell of possession.
Newport’s second substitution saw Bournemouth loanee Jake Scrimshaw replace Telford on the hour, before Lamy replaced Adams in Grimsby’s first change.
Town, with a man advantage, were controlling possession as the clock ticked past the 70-minute mark but clear chances were proving hard to come by, with Townsend claiming the ball from a cross by Lamy on the right.
A cross from Hewitt soon afterwards was met by Payne but he could not turn it towards goal and the keeper eventually dived on the ball.
Amond was sent on in place of Maynard and Aaron Lewis replaced Gambin in a Newport double-substitution on 73 minutes.
A cross from Lamy looked to have caused problems as Hanson headed the ball down for Payne but he was adjudged to have committed a foul and the referee blew for a Newport free kick.
A stoppage came for Longe-King to receive treatment after going down injured following a challenge with Clifton, before he was passed fit to play on.
John-Lewis was sent on for his second Town debut in place of Hanson on 80 minutes, after Matete was booked for a foul on Dolan.
A chance came soon afterwards as John-Lewis played a low ball across the six-yard line but Payne could not force it past Townsend.
With the clock ticking down, Town were pouring forward in search of an equaliser which their performance deserved.
El Mizouni hit a weak effort from 20 yards which caused no problems for Townsend, before a cross from Hewitt was deflected through to the keeper.
The hosts had a chance to make sure of the points when Clifton gave possession away on the edge of his own penalty area but Scrimshaw failed to take advantage as his shot was saved by Eastwood.
Five added minutes gave the Mariners more time to grab a goal and John-Lewis went close to getting it as he hit the bar, although the referee’s whistle had already blown for a foul by the striker.
Payne sent a glancing header over the bar after a cross from Bunney on the left, then Townsend had to come off his line to claim another cross as Town threw everything at their hosts.
But despite their late pressure, they were unable to force a goal and were left with nothing to show for their efforts.
Town are next in action on Saturday, when they host Tranmere Rovers at Blundell Park.
- Nick Townsend
- Mickey Demetriou
- Matthew Dolan
- David Longe-King
- Ashley Baker
- Ryan Haynes
- Scot Bennett
- Luke Gambin
- Josh Sheehan (C)
- Nicky Maynard
- Dominic Telford
- Tom King
- Priestley Farquharson
- Aaron Lewis
- Anthony Hartigan
- Padraig Amond
- Jake Scrimshaw
- Ryan Taylor
- Jake Eastwood
- Elliott Hewitt
- Joe Bunney
- Rollin Menayese
- Luke Waterfall (C)
- Jay Matete
- Joe Adams
- Harry Clifton
- Idris El Mizouni
- Stefan Payne
- James Hanson
- James McKeown
- Sam Habergham
- Luke Hendrie
- Matthew Pollock
- Luke Spokes
- Lenell John-Lewis
- Julien Lamy
Referee: Craig Hicks
Tranmere Rovers (H)