GRIMSBY Town are still searching for their first win of the season after a lacklustre 0-0 draw with newly-promoted Nuneaton Town on a baking hot summer's afternoon at Blundell Park.
The visitors came in to the game having shipped nine goals in their two outings so far, whilst Town had seen victories snatched away from them in the closing stages of both their previous matches. The Mariners will have seen this as a perfect opportunity to register their first maximum haul of the 2012/13 season but they rarely threatened in a match were both teams laboured thanks to the substantial heat.
Managers Rob Scott and Paul Hurst made four changes from the side that slipped to a 2-1 home defeat to Stockport last Tuesday. In came Sam Hatton for his debut at right back, Andi Thanoj and Louie Soares in the midfield for their first starts of the season and in attack Anthony Elding was restored to the starting XI. Stepping out were Bradley Wood, Derek Niven, Frankie Artus and Greg Pearson. Those four players were named on the bench, alongside youngster Dayle Southwell. There was no place in the 16 for last season's top scorer Liam Hearn, as he was out with a calf injury, which could keep the striker our for up to a month.
Town's full line-up was James McKeown in goal, Hatton, Aswad Thomas, Shaun Pearson and Nathan Pond in defence; Joe Colbeck, Thanoj, Craig Disley and Soares in the middle with Elding partnering Andy Cook in attack.
The visitors, who came up through the Blue Square North Play Offs last season, would look to leading scorer Andy Brown for inspiration and they could also call on the experience of ex-Shrewsbury defender Gavin Cowan and former Aston Villa youngster Steven O'Halloran.
It was a slow start from both sides at a sun-drenched Blundell Park with the near-80 degree heat playing a major factor in the slow tempo.
Town had a penalty appeal turned down early on when Thomas crossed for Elding and the former Leeds striker went down in a heap under pressure from Gareth Dean but referee Hopkins waved away the appeals.
Instead it was the away side that fashioned the first opening of the early exchanges. Danny Sleath crossed from the left and Brown did superbly to hold off the challenge of two Town defenders before turning and scooping his effort over the bar from inside the penalty area.
The Mariners responded well and Colbeck burst down the right and crossed low looking for Cook. Dean got a foot to the ball and goalkeeper Neil Collett diverted it on to the crossbar before palming away the follow-up as Elding, Soares and Greg Pearson looked to pounce.
Ex-Bradford star Colbeck was looking lively on the right for the hosts and he cut inside just past the half hour to fire in a low left-footed effort, which Collett did well to get down to.
On the other side of the field, Thomas bombed on past his man and sent in another teasing cross, which was cleared from inside his own six-yard box by Cowan, with Cook behind him looking to get a header in.
The only action in the Nuneaton attacking third for the remainder of the first 45 minutes was reserved for handbags between Hatton and young Wes York. The two clashed after a dispute over a throw-in, with the Mariners' defender being booked for his part in proceedings.
The half-time whistle blew with the home fans hoping that the second period would bring much more in the way of attacking opportunities, as Collett had hardly been threatened in the opening half.
Unfortunately for Town, Nuneaton dropped even further back, with ten men behind the ball at times and were an increasingly stubborn proposition to break down. Indeed the first chance of the second half fell the visitors' way on 54 minutes. Neil Cartwright's free kick was swung in the right wing and Brown rose to meet it but couldn't direct his header on target.
Just two minutes later and Scott and Hurst showed their hand by making a triple substitution. Southwell, Greg Pearson and Artus were the players to join the fray, with Elding, Cook and Soares making way.
But still the Mariners struggled to get any real rhythm going. The side's best chances were coming from corners; the first coming when Shaun Pearson and Pond both rose for a ball on 66 minutes, although neither could convert a header. The second came on 80 minutes when those two players again pressured the Nuneaton defence with the ball eventually dropping for captain Disley on the edge of the area, but he fired his shot into the away following in the Osmond Stand In between that, Hatton threaded a nice ball into the inside right channel for Southwell but the substitute could only fire into the stands from a narrow angle.
The visitors were feeding on scraps. Brown and York were working hard up front; the former looking like 80s musician Mark Knopfler with his long hair and red headband but it was the Mariners who were in dire straits as they searched for the opener and, as the game moved into its closing stages, the hosts thought they had fashioned a winner. A long free kick from Thomas was not dealt with by Collett and he fumbled under a challenge from Greg Pearson. Pond was on hand to stab in the loose ball but the referee had blown for a foul on the 'keeper - it was very harsh on the home side.
And then in injury time the Mariners put together their best move of the match. Thanoj slipped a ball out to Colbeck, who got inside his man and into the penalty box. The winger was having his shirt tugged but did not go down and Collett managed to block the effort before the ball was hacked out for a throw.
Colbeck was again played in with the last chance of the game but this time, with team-mates queuing up for a cross in the middle, the former Oldham man fired a speculative effort into the stands from out wide.
It was the last action of another frustrating afternoon for the Mariners and they now travel to North Wales to play Wrexham in a televised clash next Saturday.
Attendance: 3095 (160)
Matchreport by Stanley Eisen at Blundell Park