Braintree Town 0-0 Grimsby Town
GRIMSBY Town kept their unbeaten run going as they picked up a point from a goalless draw at Braintree Town.
In a largely scrappy game, the Mariners created the better chances and went closest to forcing a winning goal when captain Craig Disley hit the bar with a header in the closing stages.
Town boss Paul Hurst had been forced into making two first-half substitutions when both Josh Gowling and Gregor Robertson picked up injuries.
And ultimately, neither side could manage to get the scoreboard going in the second half as both were forced to settle for a draw.
Omar Bogle was the man given the nod to replace the injured Jon-Paul Pittman in the Town attack in what was the only change to the side that beat Gateshead in midweek.
That meant Padraig Amond again had to be content with a place on the bench as Ben Tomlinson continued from the start.
James McKeown began in goal, with Danny East, Shaun Pearson, Gowling and Robertson forming the defence.
Nathan Arnold, Disley, Craig Clay and Andy Monkhouse were the midfielders, leaving Bogle and Tomlinson as the two strikers.
Amond was joined on the substitutes list by Richard Tait, Jack Mackreth, Marcus Marshall and Toto Nsiala.
Braintree started the day level on points with the Mariners but a place lower in the National League table because of Town’s superior goal difference.
They would look to four-goal leading scorer Michael Cheek to add to his tally and ensure the points stayed in Essex.
Town began brightly, with Bogle looking lively in the early stages but Braintree had the first shot of the game on six minutes, as Kenny Davis saw an effort blocked.
Robertson had to head a home cross clear on 10 minutes, before a long ball from East was headed on by Monkhouse but a home defender got to it ahead of Tomlinson and cleared it for a throw-in.
Disley sent a shot off-target under pressure two minutes later, then a passage of play involving Monkhouse and Tomlinson resulted in a Grimsby corner on the quarter-hour, which was headed clear.
A corner at the other end came when Gowling had to clear danger created by Anthony Edgar but the kick was dealt with by McKeown.
The Town keeper was called into action again on 18 minutes and he made a good save from Edgar, beating the attacker’s shot away from goal.
Mitch Brundle was the next to shoot for the hosts but again, McKeown was able to make the save.
A chance for the Mariners almost came when Monkhouse and Robertson combined down the left and the defender crossed for Bogle but centre-back Matthew Paine stopped the striker from shooting.
East then missed the target with a shot after another Robertson cross had been knocked down by Disley.
Tomlinson was fouled to bring about a Grimsby free kick in a promising position on 28 minutes and from it, Arnold’s shot was deflected behind for a corner. This time, Arnold’s kick was cleared by Davis and after the ball almost came back to the winger, Edgar won it for the hosts and launched a break.
A shot by Cheek was blocked by Pearson, although both sides were now struggling to create chances as the game turned scrappy by the half-hour mark.
Bogle won a free kick after managing to get to a ball from Tomlinson on 36 minutes. Paine was booked for fouling the striker, before Bogle’s shot was cleared after hitting the Braintree wall. Town kept possession and a Robertson cross was headed wide by Pearson.
The Mariners were then forced into making their first substitution after Gowling went down injured and had to be replaced by Nsiala.
Seconds later, another enforced change had to be made as Robertson was also withdrawn because of an injury. Tait was the man to come on at right-back, with East switching to the left to cover for Robertson.
Nsiala did well to win a goal kick after Cheek looked to get on the end of a ball into the box from Edgar.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the half and Tomlinson was yellow-carded for a foul on Edgar in the second of them. The resulting free kick was caught by McKeown.
A foul on Tait gave Town a chance to get the ball into the danger zone right at the end of the half and it led to a corner when Tait’s attempted cross was blocked. Arnold’s flag-kick was headed away and that proved to be the last action of the half, meaning the teams went in level at the interval.
No further changes were made before the restart and the Mariners had the first chance of the second half but Clay could not convert it, shooting inches wide at the far post.
A Braintree free kick on 49 minutes was cleared and Town broke through Tomlinson. He looked to find Bogle but when the pass came, he was crowded out by home defenders.
A Town corner came five minutes later but they were unable to turn it into a goalscoring opportunity.
A free kick taken by Tait then led to Nsiala heading wide as the Mariners continued to do most of the attacking.
Tait did well at the other end soon afterwards to put in a tackle and ensure the only damage was a corner after a ball had been lifted into the Grimsby box.
Another Town attack on 63 minutes eventually led to a shot by Bogle being blocked for a corner, which was punched clear by home keeper Will Norris.
Cheek was replaced by Sean Marks in the Braintree attack with 66 minutes on the clock and as Town went forward again soon afterwards, Arnold saw a shot blocked.
Taylor Miles was the next to come on for the home side, with Edgar making way.
Tomlinson chased a ball down towards the corner flag to set up another Grimsby attack on 72 minutes but the Mariners were unable to profit from it, as a cross proved just too high for Bogle.
At the other end, a shot from Marks went a long way off-target as the deadlock remained in place.
Marshall replaced Arnold on the Town right as Hurst made his third and final substitution with 17 minutes left to play.
The hosts made their last change soon afterwards, with Jeremy Walker coming on for Davis in midfield.
A foul by Nsiala gave Braintree a free kick in a dangerous position but Miles’ attempted shot to the near post was headed clear by Marshall.
McKeown then blocked Marks from close range, although the striker had been flagged offside so any goal would not have counted.
Alex Woodyard was penalised for a foul on Tait with 10 minutes to go but again, Town were unable to create any danger from the resulting free kick.
Tomlinson could not control a pass from Monkhouse as the Mariners continued to search for a winning goal.
More pressure came through Tait on the right and after he was stopped for a throw-in, Town kept the ball in their attacking third and another Tait cross saw Disley’s header hit the bar, before Bogle was caught as he bravely went in for a diving header from the rebound.
Disley was forced off with a cut, along with Braintree’s Remy Clerima, although both came back on as four minutes of added time were signalled.
Neither side was able to force a winner in that time, meaning the game ended in stalemate, with Town returning with a point and a clean sheet.
They are next in action on Tuesday, when FC Halifax Town visit Blundell Park