Ryan Taylor’s early goal got Grimsby Town back to winning ways as they beat Southend United in front of the BT Sport cameras at Blundell Park.
The Mariners made a fast start under the Friday night lights as they looked to end a run of four straight defeats in all competitions and after taking the lead with just three minutes on the clock, they created several opportunities to add to their advantage.
Southend came into the game as the first half went on but rarely seriously threatened and it was Town who had the better chances throughout an absorbing contest.
And although they were unable to get the second goal which would have made for a more comfortable evening, the Mariners were solid at the back and deserved their three points.
Three changes were made to the Grimsby starting XI following the defeat at Aldershot last time out, as Shaun Pearson, Adam Crookes and Giles Coke returned in place of Ryley Towler, Seb Revan and Evan Khouri.
James McKeown started in goal, with Michee Efete, Pearson, Luke Waterfall and Crookes forming the defence. Coke and Alex Hunt sat behind Erico Sousa, Ben Fox and Harry Clifton in midfield, with Taylor leading the attack.
Towler and Revan were both named on the bench, where there was also a return from injury for John McAtee as David Longe-King and Will Bapaga completed the matchday squad.
Southend boss Kevin Maher also made three changes to the team that started their 2-0 home loss to Woking for the long trip north from Essex.
The Shrimpers were looking for a victory which would lift them four points clear of the relegation zone ahead of the rest of the division’s fixtures on Saturday.
An early cross from Taylor on the left was caught by Southend keeper Steve Arnold, before a cross at the other end from Louis Walsh was collected by McKeown at the second attempt.
The Mariners then took the lead from their first chance of the game after Fox did well to keep the ball in on the left and pull it back for Clifton. Sousa then held it up inside the penalty area and when it broke for TAYLOR, he slotted past Arnold from eight yards.
A foul on Efete gave Town a free kick near the right edge of the box on six minutes but Hunt’s delivery was headed clear before it could reach Waterfall. The hosts kept possession and Coke eventually volleyed high over the bar from 20 yards.
Another chance came soon afterwards when Clifton ran down the left and played the ball into the penalty area for Fox. He in turn looked for Sousa but the winger’s shot was blocked.
It was all Town in the early stages until a free kick 30 yards from goal gave the visitors their first opportunity to put pressure on the home goal. They were unable to cause any problems from it though, as a shot bounced off the Mariners’ wall.
McKeown was called into action for the first time on 10 minutes, to push a shot from Walsh away for a corner after a cross from Jason Demetriou. The ball from the flag was cleared.
Another Southend free kick was dealt with by Pearson at the near post, then after a period lacking in goalmouth action, Town won their first corner on 21 minutes but were unable to execute a training ground move from Hunt’s short, low ball towards the near post.
A cross from Demetriou flashed across the penalty area on 24 minutes before the ball was put out for a corner by Crookes. Walsh’s ball from it was cleared.
Southend had come into the game after Town’s fast start and Rhys Murphy went down under a challenge from McKeown inside the box on 28 minutes after running onto a through-ball from Zac Brunt but the offside flag had already gone up against the striker.
At the other end, Sousa hit the side-netting from a narrow angle, before Clifton just missed the target with a shot on the turn from 12 yards which drifted beyond the far post.
A low, driven cross from Walsh on the away right turned into a corner, which was eventually dealt with after Murphy was crowded out as he looked to shoot.
A stoppage came when midfielder James Dunne went down with a head injury, although he was passed fit to continue after receiving treatment.
When the game restarted, Sousa set off on a run down the left and beat John White but his cross was just too high for Taylor to connect with a header.
Clifton fired wide from distance on 39 minutes, before an attempt by Hunt four minutes later was deflected wide for a corner. Hunt’s low ball was cleared but the ball was returned into the box and a header from Taylor was caught by Arnold.
Four added minutes were played at the end of the first half and with no further chances created by either side, Town’s one-goal advantage remained intact at the break.
No changes were made before the restart and the Mariners won a corner three minutes in but Hunt’s ball from the flag was headed clear.
Hunt saw a shot blocked after a Sousa cross from the right was missed by Taylor, then a foul on Crookes on the left gave Town a free kick just inside the Southend half. Hunt’s delivery was met by Waterfall but after he headed back across goal, the ball was cleared.
Clifton went down under a challenge on the edge of the box after making progress through the middle but despite appeals from the home fans for a free kick, the referee took no action and play continued.
Clifton was involved again soon afterwards when he drove forward through the centre before threading a great ball through for Sousa. He could not apply the finish though, blasting over the bar from the edge of the box.
Brunt fired just over the bar at the other end as Southend threatened for the first time in the second half on 58 minutes.
Sousa then created another opportunity at the other end as he twisted and turned inside the penalty area but saw his shot blocked.
Fox sent a low shot wide of the target from 20 yards on 65 minutes, before the away side made the first substitution of the game as Terrell Egbri replaced Dunne in midfield.
Town had another chance soon afterwards as Clifton linked up with Sousa, who gave him the ball back inside the box. The midfielder could not make the opportunity count though as he shot into the side-netting.
A foul by Coke on Murphy gave Southend a free kick in a dangerous posiiton but they failed to make the most of it as the ball into the box as comfortably caught by McKeown.
The away side won a corner on 72 minutes after a spell of possession but it came to nothing as the referee spotted a foul on McKeown as the ball came across from the flag and blew for a free kick.
Nathan Ferguson received the first yellow card of the night after a foul on Taylor on the halfway line, before Town’s first change saw McAtee replace Hunt with 13 minutes to go.
Sousa won a corner on 82 minutes after linking up with McAtee down the left and from te flag-kick, the Mariners went close to doubling their lead but Pearson’s flicked header clipped the top of the bar.
At the other end, a break from Egbri caused problems as he cut inside from the right but Waterfall was in the right place to scramble the ball clear, before Demetriou lifted an effort over the bar from 20 yards.
Matty Dennis replaced Will Atkinson in the away midfield, then a foul on Taylor gave Town a free kick in a promising position on the right. McAtee’s ball was won by Waterfall at the far post but his header was caught by Arnold.
McAtee was booked for a foul on White just before the game moved into four minutes of added time, then the yellow card was shown again by the referee, this time to Egbri after a foul on Coke.
Revan came on for Sousa as the Mariners looked to run the clock down and with noi further chances for either side, they were left to celebrate a hard-fought and much-needed victory.
Town are next in action on Tuesday, when they travel to Solihull Moors.