Grimsby Town 1 - 1 Forest Green Rovers
GRIMSBY Town’s unbeaten run was extended to seven games as they drew with Forest Green Rovers at Blundell Park.
In an entertaining contest before a 5,000-plus crowd, the Mariners took the lead through Jon-Paul Pittman just after the half-hour mark.
But they were not ahead for long, as veteran striker Jon Parkin levelled the scores within three minutes.
Grimsby had the better chances in the second half but they were unable to force a winner and instead, had to settle for a point.
The Town XI was unchanged after last week’s 4-0 victory away at Southport, meaning leading scorers Omar Bogle and Padraig Amond both had to settle for places on the bench again.
James McKeown started in goal, behind a defence of Danny East, Shaun Pearson, Josh Gowling and Gregor Robertson.
Jack Mackreth, Craig Disley, Craig Clay and Andy Monkhouse were the midfielders, with Pittman and Ben Tomlinson given the nod in attack, as they were at Haig Avenue last time out.
The Grimsby subs were Bogle, Amond, Marcus Marshall, Nathan Arnold and Aristote Nsiala.
Forest Green arrived in Cleethorpes looking to arrest a slump in form which had seen them pick up only one point from their last four games.
But Ady Pennock’s men remained top of the National League table at kick-off, having won each of their first nine matches.
Their starting XI included much-travelled striker Jon Parkin, who would be looking to cause problems for the home defence alongside Kurtis Guthrie in the Rovers attack.
Town flew out of the blocks and created the first chance of the game within the opening minute, with Mackreth blasting wide from a narrow angle on the right.
At the other end, a challenge from Pearson prevented Parkin from connecting with a cross, allowing Gowling to clear the ball.
A let-off for the home side came on six minutes, when Elliott Frear dispossessed East and set off on a run down the left. His cross was missed by Robertson but neither Parkin nor Keanu Marsh-Brown could take advantage as the ball was sent back into the danger zone on three occasions before Monkhouse eventually put it out for a corner.
A looping header from Mackreth lacked the power to beat visiting keeper Jonny Maxted as the fast-paced start continued, although neither side had yet taken control of the game.
A shot from Guthrie was blocked by Robertson after a Forest Green break on 16 minutes, before Monkhouse had to head away for a corner following a cross from Frear.
The Mariners almost had a chance two minutes later, when Pittman did well to get to a ball first on the right and he showed good persistence to hold it up, then look for strike-partner Tomlinson. The Barnet loanee could not make it count though, as he failed to connect with an attempted shot.
A foul on East gave Town a free kick on the right on 22 minutes but Mackreth’s delivery was headed out for a throw-in by Guthrie, who got to the ball ahead of Pearson.
Soon afterwards, the home side had a corner on the right and from it, they went close to taking the lead. Mackreth’s ball was headed towards goal by Gowling but Tomlinson could not turn it in, seeing his shot-on-the-turn go past the far post.
Neither goalkeeper had been called into any serious action as the half-hour mark began to approach, with Frear volleying Forest Green’s latest opportunity over the bar.
A foul on Tomlinson gave Town the chance to change that but Mackreth’s chip into the box was comfortably headed clear by midfielder Rob Sinclair.
The next foul on Tomlinson saw Darren Jones become the first player of the afternoon to be shown a yellow card by referee Steven Rushton.
The resulting free kick led to a Town throw-in on the left and after they kept possession from it, Disley’s back-header from a Robertson cross fell for PITTMAN on the edge of the six-yard box and he took a touch before turning and firing past Maxted to open the scoring.
Forest Green immediately looked to hit back and a break down the left saw Frear beat East and pull the ball back but Gowling was able to get it clear.
The next time the visitors went forward, they were back on level terms. It was PARKIN who scored the equaliser, working space on the edge of the penalty area and curling a low shot beyond McKeown.
Monkhouse was adjudged to have fouled Sinclair to bring about a Forest Green free kick on 40 minutes but Darren Carter’s shot hit the Town wall and went out for a corner, which was headed clear by Pittman.
Monkhouse did well to win a corner on the left in the last minute of the half but they could not take advantage from it, as the ball eventually broke for Disley to send a dipping volley over the bar from 20 yards.
One additional minute was signalled by the fourth official and after it passed without any further chances being created, the scores remained level at half-time.
No changes were made before the restart and Town had an early opportunity to create danger when Tomlinson was fouled by Jones on the left. Mackreth’s delivery to the far post was dropped by Maxted under the challenge of Pearson but the keeper gathered it at the second attempt.
At the other end, East escaped punishment after appearing to pull Parkin back but the referee did not even award a free kick, instead allowing play to continue.
Pearson went down injured after a challenge from Guthrie but the centre-back was able to continue without receiving treatment.
A good move involving Disley, East and Mackreth led to Grimsby’s next opportunity on 53 minutes but Tomlinson could only shoot wide at the near-post at the end of it.
An altercation between East and Parkin over a throw-in led to both players being booked on 57 minutes, before Tomlinson headed a Mackreth cross over the bar two minutes later.
Forest Green’s next attack saw a shot by Frear deflect off East for a corner, which was headed away by Pittman as far as Carter, who shot wide.
Pearson was the next to be booked by the referee, for a foul on Guthrie just inside the Town half.
The game was still finely poised with 20 minutes to go and Mariners boss Paul Hurst made his first substitution then, sending Bogle on in place of Pittman.
East hit a long-range shot that swerved wide of the near post, before Monkhouse gave away a free kick by fouling Carter. From it, the ball was chipped into the box but Gowling got to it first.
Gowling had to concede a corner to stop a cross from the Forest Green left on 76 minutes and Frear’s ball was headed out for another flag-kick by Bogle. This time, the ball fell for Jones but his shot was blocked by McKeown, who got down to make a good save.
Hurst then made his final two substitutions, sending Marshall on in place of Mackreth and Amond for Tomlinson.
A Forest Green free kick given against Bogle led to Parkin heading over the bar but the referee’s whistle had gone in any case, and Town were given a free kick for a push.
Marshall cut in from the right after a pass from Amond on 81 minutes but Disley was unable to convert the winger’s cross at the near post.
David Pipe came on for Marsh-Brown for the away side soon afterwards, before East did well to win a corner on the right, which was headed clear.
A foul on Bogle near halfway gave Town a free kick with two minutes to go and after East’s kick was headed on by Pearson, the ball was cleared for a corner.
That led to another corner on the opposite side after Marshall’s ball was missed by keeper Maxted and after the kick was ordered to be retaken, Pearson powered a header over the bar.
Three added minutes were signalled by the fourth official but they passed without any further chances, leaving both sides with a point apiece.
Town are next in action on Tuesday, when Gateshead are the visitors to Blundell Park