George Lloyd struck to earn Grimsby Town an important victory over Sky Bet League Two’s bottom side Rochdale at Blundell Park.
The Mariners started slowly as they aimed to improve on Tuesday’s home draw with Newport County and it was their visitors who created the better openings in the first half.
But Town improved after the break and they forced a breakthrough on 68 minutes when Lloyd met a long ball from substitute Harry Clifton and lifted the ball into the net.
The home side pushed forward in a bid to get a second goal but in the end, one proved enough to secure a hard-fought three points.
Two changes were made to the Grimsby line-up after Tuesday’s game, as Kieran Green and Otis Khan replaced Clifton and Evan Khouri in midfield.
Max Crocombe started in goal, with Michee Efete, Luke Waterfall and Niall Maher forming the back three. Josh Emmanuel and Anthony Glennon operated as wing-backs, with Gavan Holohan joining Green and Khan in the centre of the park as John McAtee again linked up with Lloyd in attack.
Clifton and Khouri were both named on the bench, where they were joined by Alex Hunt, Mikey O’Neill, Danilo Orsi, Andy Smith and Ryan Taylor.
Rochdale made the journey east looking for a victory which could take them off the foot of the league table, with Jim Bentley’s side aiming to continue an encouraging upturn in fortunes after taking four points from their previous two games.
Strikers Scott Quigley and Devante Rodney would be aiming to get the goals, while former Mariners loanee goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell was looking to keep them out at the other end.
Quigley was spoken to by the referee after Town won an early free kick on the halfway line, before Rochdale winger Abraham Odoh set off on a run through the middle which was stopped on the edge of the penalty area.
Lloyd won the game’s first corner for the Mariners on five minutes but they were unable to turn it into a chance in front of goal.
Crocombe came off his line to punch a cross from Toby Mullarkey clear after a spell of away possession, then Green did well to win the ball in midfield but his pass towards McAtee proved too strong and the attacker could only send an attempted cross out for a goal kick.
Glennon was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon on 13 minutes after pulling Odoh back just inside the Town half. Danny Lloyd sent the resulting free kick into the box but the referee spotted an infringement and gave a decision in favour of the hosts.
A foul by Waterfall gave the away side another chance to get the ball into the danger zone and this time, they turned it into an opportunity in front of goal but Ethan Ebanks-Landell sent his free header over the bar.
Khan won a corner at the other end on 17 minutes when his right-wing cross was blocked, although Glennon’s low delivery from it was easily cleared.
A cross from the away left was headed away by Maher but a shove by McAtee gave away another free kick in a dangerous position near the right corner flag. It was well-defended though, with Lloyd heading clear.
A series of Maher throws got the Mariners up the pitch on 22 minutes and the last of them was sent into the box but when it was flicked on for McAtee, he was unable to bring the ball under control.
Town kept the pressure up as Emmanuel won a corner on the right but this time, Glennon’s ball was caught by keeper O’Donnell.
Another Emmanuel cross proved too high for Lloyd, before a spell of home possession led to Efete firing wide with a low shot from inside the box.
A free kick routine down the left led to Glennon crossing for Waterfall at the far post but when he headed the ball back across goal, nobody in black and white was there to take advantage.
The visitors will feel they should have taken the lead just after the half-hour when Odoh found Rodney on the right and his low cross was missed by two attackers, with nobody coming in able to connect with the loose ball and put it into the net.
Rodney then had an opening as he rounded Crocombe but his touch forced him wide and the shot was blocked for a corner. From the flag, there was yet another chance as Ethan Brierley’s delivery was headed towards goal by Jimmy Keohane but Lloyd managed to head clear off the line.
A stoppage came for Waterfall to receive treatment when he stayed down after the corner but he was eventually passed fit to continue.
Odoh won another flag-kick for Rochdale five minutes before the break, although Brierley’s ball from it was headed away at the near post by Lloyd.
Soon afterwards, Khan sent a curling effort wide from 25 yards, then another home attack broke down when Khan pushed the ball too far ahead of himself and it rolled out for a goal kick.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the half and there was an opening for Town when Khan crossed from the left, although Lloyd was unable to get his header on target.
No more opportunities came for either side before the half-time whistle, meaning the game remained goalless at the interval.
Taylor replaced McAtee before the restart as Town boss Paul Hurst made his first substitution, before an early Rochdale free kick was headed clear.
The Mariners then won a free kick inside the away half and Glennon’s delivery bounced around the penalty area until Green hit a low shot which was blocked for a corner. Again, Glennon took it and this time, Green flicked the ball over the bar at the near post.
A penalty appeal came from the away fans when Mullarkey cut inside from the right and went down inside the box under contact. The referee pointed instead for a goal kick.
Town then almost had a chance when the ball was played into the path of Khan but O’Donnell raced off his line to beat the attacker to it and punch clear.
Rodney had an opportunity when Odoh raced clear and slipped a pass through to him, although he could not generate enough power on his low shot to beat Crocombe, who dived to keep the ball out.
Clifton was sent on in place of Holohan for Town in a bid to gain control of the contest but it was the visitors who had the next chance, with Rodney firing well over the bar from the edge of the box.
Striker Ian Henderson then came on in place of Danny Lloyd as Rochdale made an attacking substitution with 25 minutes to go and the game still in the balance.
A foul on Taylor on the halfway line gave the home side an opportunity to create some danger but they were unable to do so as Rochdale cleared.
But seconds later, the Mariners finally had their goal as Clifton played the ball through the middle into the path of LLOYD, who sent it over the onrushing O’Donnell and into the net in front of the Pontoon Stand.
The away side’s response saw Rodney win a free kick to the left of the box when he was brought down by Green. Brierley’s ball to the far post was too close to Crocombe, who claimed a comfortable catch.
Quigley was spoken to by the referee after a tussle with Green in midfield, before a Maher long throw was headed away and Efete’s flick-on from the follow-up cross was just too far ahead of the stretching Waterfall.
Khan sent a shot just wide from distance as Town looked for a second goal, before Quigley and Crocombe were both booked for their part in a scuffle which broke out after Waterfall had done well to shield the ball out for a goal kick.
The hosts won a corner at the other end on 79 minutes and this time, Khan took it but his delivery was headed away.
Maher was booked for a late challenge, before Liam Kelly and D’Mani Mellor came on in place of Max Taylor and Keohane for the away side.
Khouri replaced Khan and Orsi was sent on in place of Lloyd with seven minutes to go as Town also made further changes.
Orsi cut in from the left but could not beat O’Donnell from a narrow angle, then a free kick from the halfway line was dealt with by the Rochdale defence.
The fourth official signalled six added minutes to be played at the end of the game, with the three points not yet safe for the Mariners.
Brierley blasted a shot over the bar from distance as the away side came forward in a bid to salvage a point, then Henderson ran out of space as he aimed to keep the ball in on the right.
Waterfall was booked for delaying the taking of a Town throw-in, before a final chance for the visitors came with a free kick just inside the Grimsby half. It came to nothing though, as Clifton brought the ball clear and the hosts’ victory was finally confirmed.
It had been a tough afternoon against a hard-working Rochdale side but in the end, the Mariners got their reward and came away with maximum points.
Town are next in action on Tuesday, when they travel to Sutton United.