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05:55 18th July 2013

Braintree Town 0 - 0 Grimsby Town

GRIMSBY Town will play Gateshead in the Skrill Premier play-offs after drawing their last game of the regular season at Braintree.


A much-changed Mariners side played out a goalless draw in a game of few real chances in Essex.


The scoreline, along with the results involving Halifax and Gateshead, meant Grimsby finished fourth in the table and will be at home in the first leg of the semi-final on Thursday, before travelling to the north-east on Sunday, May 4.


Town boss Paul Hurst made nine alterations to the side that secured the club’s play-off place by beating Hyde on Monday, with only Chris Doig and Andi Thanoj called upon to keep their places.


Keeper Jonathan Hedge made his first league start for the Mariners, lining up behind a back four of Paul Bignot, Clayton McDonald, Doig and Jamal Fyfield.


Joe Colbeck, Craig Disley, Thanoj and Alex Rodman were the midfielders, with Andy Cook and Oumare Tounkara beginning as the attack partnership.


The Grimsby subs were Scott Neilson, Dayle Southwell, Paul Walker, Caine Winfarrah and Tom Charlesworth.


An early Braintree free kick for a foul by Fyfield caused no problems for Hedge as the shot went wide.


A spell of possession from the visitors involving Tounkara, Cook and Disley came on six minutes but it came to an end when a long ball from Colbeck went through to home keeper Nick Hamann.


Colbeck was booked for a foul before the first shot from the Mariners came through Thanoj, who hit a long-range volley that went narrowly wide.


A Braintree corner soon afterwards was headed wide by Dean Wells, then another flag-kick on 16 minutes eventually led to striker Sean Marks sending an overhead kick over the bar.


Town put another short spell of possession together around the 20-minute mark, leading to a Fyfield cross being cleared, although Braintree had seen more of the ball in attacking areas.


Fyfield was booked for a late challenge, before Cook created a chance after working an opening inside the penalty area but he shot wide of the mark.


Rodman also fired off-target after looking to capitalise from a loose ball with 26 minutes on the clock and McDonald became the third Grimsby player to be shown a yellow card six minutes later for a foul on Daniel Sparkes.


Neither goalkeeper had been tested as half-time began to loom, with a Braintree corner five minutes before the break comfortably dealt with by the Mariners defence.


And the lack of goalmouth action continued until the interval, with one added minute played before the referee’s whistle brought a goalless first half to an end.


No changes were made by either side before the restart and Town won a free kick within seconds, which led to Rodman drilling a cross that went through to Hamann in the Braintree goal.


In a bright opening to the second half, Rodman found Tounkara inside the box and he called the home keeper into action with a shot that was gathered at the second attempt.


Disley also had a shooting chance with the half less than three minutes old but his long-range effort flew well wide.


A short corner taken by the hosts on 53 minutes led to Hedge turning the ball around his post for another corner, which beat everybody and went out for a goal kick.


At the other end, Tounkara and Thanoj combined before a cross from Colbeck went through to Hamann.


Cook won a free kick near the edge of the Braintree box on 57 minutes and Colbeck’s ball from it was met by Tounkara but his far-post header from a very tight angle hit the side-netting.


Sparkes was replaced by Jordan Cox for the hosts just before the hour, with Town making a double substitution at the same time as Charlesworth came on for Disley and Rodman made way for Southwell.


Thanoj was the next to go into the referee’s notebook when he was yellow-carded for a foul on 68 minutes.


The midfielder then had a half-chance to put his side ahead when he met a cross from Colbeck but put his header past the post and it remained 0-0.


Braintree had rarely threatened but they had an opportunity inside the Town box with 20 minutes to go, although Hedge was on hand to race off his line to dive at Cox’s feet and smother the ball to put an end to the danger.


More potential problems came when Fyfield was adjudged to have fouled his man soon afterwards but Sam Habergham slipped as he took the free kick and it went harmlessly wide.


A fifth Grimsby booking came for handball against Cook with 15 minutes to go, before Hurst’s third and final substitution saw Winfarrah given an opportunity to impress in place of Colbeck.


A foul by midfielder Kenny Davis gave Town a free kick, which Thanoj hit against the home wall.


A better chance came for Cook with eight minutes left, when a deflected cross from Winfarrah fell for him but he could not turn it into the net.


Town were now beginning to get on top and after receiving a pass from Southwell, Tounkara showed good feet to work his way into the penalty area but could not find a finish.


But the home side were not finished yet and Charlesworth was required to make a good block before Cox pulled a shot wide soon afterwards.


Referee Justin Amey had his yellow card out again when Winfarrah was penalised for kicking the ball away after committing a foul.


Five added minutes were signalled at the end of the regulation 90 and Hedge was forced to make a good save from point-blank range to deny the hosts a late winner.


And the home side almost had another opportunity in the last minute but a foul on Hedge resulted in a Town free kick as Sean Marks put the ball into the net.


The Mariners finished the game on the attack but were unable to find a breakthrough, meaning they were forced to settle for a draw.


Attentions now turn to the play-off showdown with Gateshead, with the first leg to be played at Blundell Park on Thursday.


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.