Grimsby Town made it back-to-back wins as they beat play-off-chasing Sutton United at Gander Green Lane.
Michee Efete’s goal 11 minutes before the break, coupled with a fine defensive display, earned the Mariners an impressive three points on the road in south-east London.
Five changes were made to the starting line-up following the home victory over Rochdale on Saturday but it was still a strong XI sent out by Town boss Paul Hurst, who opted against making more alterations ahead of the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final tie at Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.
Ryan Taylor made his first start since recovering from injury, while Andy Smith, Harry Clifton, Bryn Morris and Danny Amos also came back into the team as Josh Emmanuel, Gavan Holohan, Otis Khan, Anthony Glennon and John McAtee made way.
Max Crocombe took up his usual place in goal, with Smith, Luke Waterfall and Niall Maher forming the back three. Efete and Amos were the wing-backs, while Clifton, Kieran Green and Morris made up the midfield and Taylor was partnered by George Lloyd in attack.
Emmanuel, Holohan, Khan and McAtee were all named on the bench, where they were joined by Mikey O’Neill, Danilo Orsi and Evan Khouri.
Sutton came into the game on an excellent run of form, with Matt Gray’s men unbeaten in their previous eight Sky Bet League Two fixtures and sitting ninth in the table, just a point adrift of the play-off positions. They would be aiming to build on Saturday’s goalless draw away at Barrow with another three points at home, having beaten Crawley Town 3-0 in their last match in the capital.
Town created the first chance of the night through Green, who curled a shot with the outside of his right boot which dropped just wide from the edge of the penalty area.
The first corner came on five minutes on the Sutton right, although the delivery from it was headed away at the far post by Morris.
Taylor headed wide from an Efete cross at the other end, then the same combination linked up again but Taylor could only send a shot on the turn wide of the far post.
Town had started positively and when they went forward again, Taylor was eased out of the way as he aimed to meet a ball into the box from Lloyd, then a cross from Maher was cleared.
Sutton’s Rob Milsom was shown the first yellow card on 12 minutes for bringing Efete down to the right of the box but Amos’ free kick drifted past the far post for a goal kick.
Another free kick came when Clifton was fouled by defender Coby Rowe in a central position and this time, the ball was touched to Morris but his strike was blocked by Harry Beautyman.
Morris fired wide from a 20-yard volley after a Maher long throw broke for him as the away side’s strong opening to the game continued, then an Efete cross from the right was headed behind for a corner on 22 minutes. Green was beaten to Amos’ delivery from the flag and a return ball into the box was cleared.
Crocombe’s first task of the evening was to reach up and claim a comfortable catch when Milsom headed a cross from the home right back across goal, before midfielder Alistair Smith tried his luck from distance but saw his effort go harmlessly wide.
Sutton’s first real chance came on 33 minutes when a cross from the right fell for Harry Beautyman, although he volleyed over the bar from six yards.
Seconds later, the Mariners took the lead, as Taylor flicked a header on the halfway line and Lloyd played a brilliant pass through for EFETE, who slotted the ball past onrushing home keeper Jack Rose.
Amos was booked for pulling winger David Ajiboye back on the Sutton right as the hosts looked to respond to going behind. Milsom whipped the resulting free kick in but his ball was just too high and it landed on the roof of the net.
Rose was first to a low cross from Lloyd on the right, before a foul by Clifton on Ajiboye gave the hosts a free kick in the Town half. Waterfall was first to the delivery into the box and the loose ball was eventually hooked over the bar by centre-back Ben Goodliffe.
Sutton had another opening a minute before the break when Lee Angol crossed from the left but his strike partner Matthew Dennis was unable to connect with it and a goal kick was the result.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and Town saw it out to ensure they went into the dressing rooms at the interval with the advantage.
No changes were made before the restart and the home side started the second half on the front foot, albeit without troubling Crocombe, as heavy rain fell.
Sutton won a corner on their right eight minutes in but the ball from the flag was well-defended as Green headed clear at the far post.
Dennis beat Waterfall to cut into the penalty area from the left, although Crocombe managed to block the striker’s low shot with his feet to ensure the only damage was a corner.
After weathering the early storm, Town were starting to see more of the ball in attacking areas as the hour mark passed.
A stoppage came for Lloyd to receive treatment after he was caught in a challenge in the air, then when play resumed, a Maher long throw was flicked on but nobody was in the right place to connect with the loose ball.
Clifton was booked for bringing Ajiboye down after the midfielder himself appeared to have been fouled.
Sutton then made the first substitution of the game, with Kylian Kouassi replacing Angol.
A Maher throw on 67 minutes eventually led to a corner on the left and from it, Town went close to doubling their lead as Waterfall ran from deep to meet the ball in the air. Unfortunately for the centre-back though, his header flew just wide.
Crocombe received treatment after going down with an injury soon afterwards, then Holohan replaced Green in Town’s first change on 75 minutes, with Enzio Boldewijn and Donovan Wilson coming on for Dennis and Will Randall for the hosts at the same time.
Maher put in a great block to cut a Beautyman cross out for a corner after the midfielder had been found by Sutton’s Smith. The ball from the flag was headed away and the clearance was completed by Maher.
Beautyman was shown the yellow card for a foul on Clifton on the Grimsby left with 10 minutes to go, although Morris’ free kick was headed clear at the edge of the box.
Taylor did well to hold the ball up and start an attack down the right on 85 minutes which led to him winning a corner. Morris sent a driven delivery over from the flag but nobody could get on the end of it.
The fourth official signalled seven added minutes to be played at the end of the game and Emmanuel replaced Amos soon after the left wing-back had gone down with cramp.
A Sutton corner was dealt with as the home side pushed forward in search of a late equaliser but the Mariners were managing the game well and soon had the ball at the other end of the pitch again.
A free kick inside the Town half gave the hosts their final chance of the game and before it was taken, Rowe was booked for raising his hands to Lloyd. The free kick itself was poor and Clifton brought the ball clear until he was brought down on the halfway line by Joe Kizzi, who was also shown the yellow card.
That proved to be the last piece of work of the night for the Mariners, who were now able to celebrate a huge three points and a second consecutive clean sheet with their 273 travelling fans.
The full focus can now turn to the weekend’s trip to the south coast for Sunday’s historic FA Cup clash with Premier League Brighton at the Amex Community Stadium.