Rotherham United slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Grimsby Town in their penultimate Central League fixture of the 2016/17 campaign on Tuesday afternoon.
The Mariners clinched victory thanks to a first-half header by Cameron Hough as the Millers gave opportunities to a number of young professionals at Blundell Park.
Jonson Clarke-Harris continued his recovery from long-term injury, completing 75 minutes in front of the watching interim boss Paul Warne and assistant Matthew Hamshaw.
New signing Alex Bray also enjoyed another productive afternoon as he looks to force his way into the first-team starting 11.
Academy manager Garreth Barker was in the dugout and also gave a start to first-team professionals Dom Ball, Laurence Bilboe, Fabian Bailey and Mason Warren, whilst Tom Rose and Darnelle Bailey-King were also included despite being out on loan.
It was a purposeful start from the Millers, with captain Warren and winger Bray in particular looking bright in the opening stages. It was Bray who supplied the first half-chance but Clarke-Harris toe-poked wide under pressure from just inside the area.
Clarke-Harris looked an imposing presence in attack, and was almost in behind from Warren’s through ball which was cut out in the nick of time.
At the other end, the Mariners had the best chance of the game when Adi Yussuf drilled wide from 12 yards, and then the same player wasted another opportunity when he headed over from eight yards after a cross from the right.
Grimsby were now enjoying a good spell in the game and James Berrett’s deflected shot almost caught out Bilboe as it flashed wide.
From the resulting corner, Grimsby took the lead when Berrett’s corner was headed in at the back post by Hough.
The Millers thought they had equalised soon after but Clarke-Harris’ header from a Bray free-kick was ruled out for offside.
After the break the same player was denied again this time by the woodwork. After receiving the ball, Clarke-Harris moved away from the defence with a clever body swerve, but his shot across goal cannoned off the inside of the post and into the arms of the ‘keeper.
Sub Kayode was then denied by a smart save after Clarke-Harris had muscled his way into a shooting position. The former Oldham ace’s shot was blocked by the Grimsby defence before the rebound found Kayode but his effort was well saved.
The game drifted with both teams restricted to half chances as Grimsby held out to record victory.
Rotherham: Bilboe; Bailey, Sterling (Abraham), Ball, Rose, Bailey-King, Osborne (Kayode ht), Warren, Adeyemi, Bray (James), Clarke-Harris (Naeem)