THE New Year started as 2014 ended for Grimsby Town, with a disappointing home defeat, this time to fellow play-off hopefuls Macclesfield Town.
A late goal from Danny Whittaker was enough to send the three points back to Cheshire, after Jon-Paul Pittman cancelled out Denny Johnstone’s opener.
It was a lacklustre display from the hosts, who looked like they were still smarting from Sunday’s derby defeat to Lincoln City.
Manager Paul Hurst was forced into two changes with Carl Magnay and Scott Neilson failing late fitness tests to be replaced by Paul Bignot and Jack Mackreth.
Midfielder Craig Disley also sat out, his place being taken by Scott Brown. Danny Parslow continued to deputise for the suspended Toto Nsiala.
But it was the visitors who started the better of the two teams and they should have been ahead on five minutes.
Former Lincoln striker Waide Fairhurst burst into the penalty area and squared for Denny Johnstone but the ball was too far in front of the Macclesfield man, Shaun Pearson clearing the danger.
Left back Aswad Thomas was the main attacking outlet for the hosts, advancing twice down the left flank to deliver inviting crosses that neither Mackreth, nor top scorer John-Lewis could convert.
Parslow flashed a header wide of the near post from a Brown free kick but it was the away side enjoying the best of the play with James McKeown twice being called upon to deny Arthur Gnohoua – the first from a low, 25-yard drive, the second from a close-range header.
The Silkmen’s winger went even closer on 23 minutes, clipping the outside of the post with a left-footed shot from an acute angle, after working his way into the penalty area from out wide.
Just five minutes later and it was the hosts who should have been celebrating the opener. John-Lewis did superbly to control a long ball and turn in the box. His pull back was perfect for strike partner Pittman but he steered his effort wide of the far post from 15 yards with Rhys Taylor beaten in the goal.
And Town were made to pay for that profligacy just 60 seconds later as the Silkmen went in front. Fairhurst picked the ball up on the right touch line, about 40 yards from goal and was allowed to run at Parslow, who backed off in alarming fashion.
The former Doncaster youngster fired in a stinging cross that McKeown could only parry into the path of Johnstone and he gleefully hammered the ball into the roof of the net.
Thankfully for the Mariners they responded well and were level nine minutes before he interval. Paul Turnbull only succeeded in presenting a clearance at a corner to Pittman and he gobbled up the chance with a well-taken left foot finish across Taylor and into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Town finished the half as the better side and only a goal line clearance from Andy Halls prevented Mackreth’s right wing cross dropping in at the far post with Taylor stranded.
The Blundell Park faithful anticipated a strong showing from their side in the second period but, in truth, it never arrived.
John-Lewis tested Taylor with a low shot in the opening minutes of the half but Town only had further blocked efforts from Craig Clay and Brown to show for their efforts, before Ross Hannah was introduced for goal scorer Pittman on 67 minutes.
Within moments the former Bradford striker had goalkeeper Taylor rushing from his goal to frantically head clear as the forward looked to pounce but still the Mariners struggled to assert themselves.
Parslow headed narrowly over on the stretch from an Arnold corner before New Zealander Hamish Watson was introduced for the final 15 minutes in place of John-Lewis.
The visitors were sensing they could snatch a victory though and McKeown had to be at his best to turn a well-struck 20-yard volley from Turnbull around the post on 78 minutes.
Then, much as in the first half, the game swung within 60 seconds. Parslow thought he had put the hosts in front as he swept home another Arnold set piece but the referee had already blown for Pearson’s infringement.
Macclesfield instead broke down the left-hand side through Adriano Moke and his cross was kept out by McKeown, only to fall invitingly for veteran Danny Whittaker to slot home from six yards.
An expected onslaught in search of an equaliser never materialised from the hosts and it was Turnbull who came closest to adding to the Silkmen’s tally with a lob that McKeown claimed well.
The defeat was the Mariners’ second on the bounce and their fourth reverse in the last seven games on their own patch.
Having dropped 21 points at Blundell Park already this season, the Mariners would be challenging Barnet for top spot, if they could address their home form.