Grimsby Town’s six-match unbeaten run came to an end as they lost by a single goal to Southend United at Roots Hall.
The Mariners went unrewarded for a hardworking display in Essex, as a Sam Dalby penalty two minutes after the hour settled a tight contest and gave the hosts all three points.
One change was made to the Town starting XI after Saturday’s home win against Woking, with Giles Coke replacing Scott Burgess in midfield.
Max Crocombe began in goal, with Michee Efete, Shaun Pearson, Luke Waterfall and Adam Crookes forming the defence. Erico Sousa, Coke, Callum Jones and Harry Clifton were the midfielders, with John McAtee supporting Tristan Abrahams in attack.
Burgess was named on the bench, where there was also a welcome return to the matchday squad from injury for Jordan Maguire-Drew. Sean Scannell, Andy Smith and Emmanuel Dieseruvwe completed the list of substitutes.
Southend came into the game on an excellent run of recent form which saw them unbeaten in 12 games, the latest of which was an away draw at Chesterfield.
Town won the first corner on three minutes but the ball from the flag was cleared. The visitors retained possession until a cross from Sousa was caught by home keeper Steve Arnold.
A foul on Efete gave the Mariners a free kick five minutes later as they continued what had been a bright start to the game, although they were unable to turn it into a chance in front of goal.
Another free kick came soon afterwards after a foul on Pearson but Crookes’ ball from it was dealt with by defender Nathan Ralph.
A cross from McAtee was half-cleared following another free kick from Crookes and the ball fell for Clifton, whose shot was held by Arnold.
The home side were yet to threaten as the quarter-hour mark passed and although they won a corner when a cross from Ollie Kensdale was cut out by Clifton, the flag-kick did not cause any problems for Crocombe.
Dalby failed to find strike-partner Callum Powell as a promising Southend attack came to an end, then Crocombe was called into action for the first time, diving full stretch to tip a shot from Harrison Neal over his bar for a corner. Nobody could turn the ball from the flag towards goal but the hosts kept possession and worked it back to Neal, who fired off-target.
After Town had the better of the opening stages, Southend came into the game and were on top at the midway point of the half, with Powell forcing Crocombe into another good save after beating Waterfall.
The offside flag went up against Efete after a Town free kick, before another attack ended when McAtee was crowded out as he looked for Clifton inside the Southend penalty area.
A good move by the Mariners on 37 minutes saw McAtee win a corner but Jones’ ball from the flag was headed clear. Town kept possession, although they were unable to create a goalscoring opportunity.
Abrahams was caught offside as the away side looked to launch another attack, before a cross from Jason Demetriou at the other end was caught by Crocombe.
Dalby was penalised for a foul on Coke to put an end to another home attack and after one added minute was played, an evenly matched first half finished goalless.
No changes were made before the restart and Town were first to threaten when Clifton broke and played the ball through to McAtee, although his shot went wide.
Another attempt by McAtee, this time from distance, was collected by Arnold, before a Waterfall header from a free kick was also dealt with by the keeper.
Southend also had early opportunities, although Efete was in the right place twice in quick succession to deny Ralph and Neal and ensure Crocombe was not troubled.
Shaun Hobson was given the first booking of the night for a trip on Clifton, before a cut-back from Sousa failed to find a team-mate.
Crookes did well to get across and stop Will Atkinson from breaking through the middle as the hosts looked for a breakthrough.
But Southend were given an opportunity to open the scoring just after the hour when Efete brought Powell down inside the box. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and DALBY stepped up to send Crocombe the wrong way from 12 yards.
Sousa won a corner as Town looked to respond to going behind but Jones’ delivery was claimed by Arnold.
McAtee tried to catch Arnold out with a shot from a long way out on 67 minutes, although the keeper got back to stop it.
The yellow card was shown to McAtee for dissent three minutes later, before Abrahams won a corner, which was dealt with by the home defence.
Powell was replaced by Jack Bridge as Southend made the first substitution of the game on 73 minutes, before Town responded with a double-change which saw Dieseruvwe and Burgess come on for Coke and Sousa.
The hosts were looking the more dangerous as the clock ticked past the 80-minute mark and they won two corners but were unable to convert either into a chance in front of goal.
McAtee was off-target at the other end as Town kept looking for an equaliser, before Noor Husin had a chance for the home side when the ball was pulled back by Bridge from the left. He was unable to bring it under control though and Town cleared.
The Mariners were still looking for an equaliser as the game moved into four added minutes and another attack saw the ball intercepted before it could reach Efete, then Clifton was also denied.
A Southend break almost led to them sealing the points but Bridge’s powerful shot hit the bar to keep the deficit at one goal.
Town were given a final chance to rescue a point when Neal was booked for a foul. The free kick from Jones bounced for Efete but he could only divert the ball wide of the target and with that went Town’s hopes of taking anything from the game.
The Mariners are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Yeovil Town.