Cambridge Utd 0 Grimsby Town 0GRIMSBY Town extended their lead at the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier to two points with a goalless draw against Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium.
The Mariners, backed by almost 700 travelling supporters, went close to taking an early lead when striker Andy Cook, back in the starting XI, hit the bar with a header.
Cambridge also had their chances in the first half, before Grimsby hit the bar again after the break through substitute Richard Brodie and Jamie Devitt also went close after a one-two with the Crawley loanee.
Ultimately though, neither side could force a breakthrough and it was a point apiece, with Town continuing an unbeaten league run that stretches back to early November.
Marcus Marshall came straight back into the side after returning to continue his loan with the Mariners from Bury yesterday.
His inclusion was one of four changes to the Town XI after the midweek victory over Hyde, with James McKeown, Aswad Thomas and Cook all returning to the starting line-up.
McKeown recovered from illness to reclaim his place in goal ahead of Greg Fleming, while Thomas replaced Bradley Wood at left-back after completing a three-match suspension and the back four was completed by Sam Hatton, Shaun Pearson and Ian Miller.
Marshall’s return on the right side of midfield meant Joe Colbeck dropped to the bench, while Derek Niven, Craig Disley and Devitt made up the central quartet.
Cook’s two-goal substitute appearance against Hyde earned him a starting berth alongside Ross Hannah up front, with Richard Brodie the man to miss out.
Brodie and Wood were both named alongside Colbeck as substitutes, with the bench completed by Simon Ford and Andi Thanoj.
Cambridge were looking to get back to winning ways after losing at home to Nuneaton in their last game.
But that defeat came after a nine-match unbeaten run which lifted the Us into the division’s top ten.
Town had an early scare when Thomas was forced to head over his own bar for a corner inside the opening minute but the kick was cleared by Cook.
Andy Pugh then forced another corner when McKeown had to push his shot away and this time, Liam Hughes headed over the top as the hosts made a bright start to the game.
Grimsby’s response came when Marshall and Devitt linked up down the left and the latter found Cook, who headed against the bar, before having a follow-up effort blocked on the line.
Devitt beat Charlie Wassmer down the Town left on nine minutes and cut into the penalty area but his shot was blocked.
A Marshall cross was cleared for a corner by Josh Coulson a minute later but the Mariners could not create a chance from the set piece.
Disley was the next to put the ball into the Cambridge box but home keeper Craig Ross beat Cook to the ball in the air.
At the other end, McKeown failed to claim a cross from Curtis Haynes- Brown on the Cambridge left but the Town stopper eventually gathered at the second attempt.
The Mariners won a free kick close to the edge of the Cambridge box on 16 minutes but Hatton’s shot went over the bar for a goal kick.
A cross from James Jennings came off Miller for a home corner but it was cleared by Cook.
Thomas then had a shot blocked for Town, before Disley hit a follow-up shot wide, with a little less than 20 minutes on the clock.
Another Cambridge corner was dealt with by the Town defence, before the game stopped for Cook to receive treatment on a head injury, picked up in a collision with Hatton while defending the flag-kick.
Cook was adjudged to be unfit to continue, meaning Brodie was introduced to the action with 25 minutes gone.
A cross from Haynes-Brown led to Pugh going down in the Town penalty area but the home penalty appeals were waved away and play continued.
Pugh’s cross from the right then drifted out for a goal kick at the far post, as the hosts kept pressing in search of an opening goal.
A foul by Miller on striker Michael Gash gave the home side a free kick in the halfway line on 33 minutes and after Miller half-cleared the ball from it, a shot from Rory McAuley was blocked by Pearson and Miller headed calmly back to McKeown.
More pressure was to come from Cambridge and a passage of play around the 35-minute mark led to Hughes firing wide.
The home side continued to see more of the ball in attacking areas but a string of offside decisions meant McKeown was not called into action.
A free kick from Jennings was cleared by Pearson as the game moved into stoppage time, before a Marshall shot was blocked at the other end.
That proved to be the final opportunity of the half, meaning the scoreline remained goalless at the interval.
No further changes were made by either side before the restart and a foul by Miller on Gash brought the first booking of the game fir the Town defender, five minutes into the second half.
Haynes-Brown won a corner off Marshall soon afterwards but it caused no threat to the Town goal, as the ball was cleared for a throw-in.
Brodie went close to opening the scoring when a cross-shot floated against the bar, before the Crawley loanee went down in the box under a challenge from Wassmer, although no penalty was given.
A foul on Thomas gave Town a free kick on the left on 58 minutes and from it, the Mariners thought they had taken the lead when a shot from Marshall found its way into the net off Brodie, who was in an offside position.
Haynes-Brown had a shot for the home side three minutes later but it was held by McKeown.
The Town keeper’s kick then fell for Devitt, who burst into the box but saw his shot saved by Ross in the Cambridge goal.
Pearson conceded a free kick on 64 minutes and after the ball was played to the edge of the box, Rossi Jarvis fired off-target for a goal kick.
A spell of Grimsby possession around the 69-minute mark led to a corner on the right and Marshall’s delivery was met by Miller but his header lacked the necessary direction and Cambridge eventually cleared.
Devitt had a chance to break the deadlock three minutes later after playing a one-two with Brodie but his shot trickled wide of the post and the scores remained level.
A Thomas cross was cleared for a corner by Coulson soon afterwards but Marshall’s delivery was cleared.
Colbeck replaced Devitt with 15 minutes to go, before Ricky Wellard came on for Matthew Fletcher for the home side.
Town were still pushing for an opening goal and Hatton’s cross was headed on by Disley on 78 minutes but keeper Ross claimed the ball.
At the other end, a Wassmer cross was cleared by Pearson but Jarvis followed it up with a shot the went just past McKeown’s post.
Hannah was tripped on the edge of the area to give Town a free kick with seven minutes left to play. Brodie’s shot hit the wall, before Wassmer put the ball out for a throw-in after Niven had found Marshall inside the box.
Brodie was fouled by Coulson midway inside the Cambridge half on 85 minutes and Pearson sent an overhead kick well wide after Hatton’s delivery.
Haynes-Brown made way for Tom Shaw as the home side made their second substitution soon afterwards.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the game and a free kick given for a high foot by Brodie was flicked on by Pugh but the ball went through to McKeown.
Keeper Ross beat Hannah to a Colbeck cross in what was the game’s final chance for either side, meaning the Mariners had to settle for a point.
Town are next in action when they host Luton Town in an FA Trophy quarter-final at Blundell Park on Tuesday.