Grimsby Town 1-1 Tranmere Rovers
GRIMSBY Town were forced to settle for their second draw of the week as Tranmere Rovers came from behind to claim a point at Blundell Park.
Under the glare of the live television cameras, the Mariners took the lead with their first real chance of the game, as the recalled Jon-Paul Pittman opened the scoring.
A great save by James McKeown from striker Marlon Jackson ensured the hosts retained their advantage at the interval but they were pegged back eight minutes after the restart, when substitute Nathan Blissett levelled the scores.
Town responded well to the setback and looked the more likely of the two sides to force a winner but despite sustained pressure, they were unable to turn one point into three.
Three changes were made to the Town side that earned a draw in the dying seconds of Tuesday night’s game at Chester.
Josh Gowling came in for Shaun Pearson in defence, with Craig Clay replacing Matt Robinson in midfield and Pittman coming into the attack in place of Padraig Amond.
McKeown started in goal, with Danny East, Toto Nsiala, Gowling and Gregor Robertson forming the back four.
Nathan Arnold began on the right of midfield, with Clay alongside Craig Disley in the middle and Andy Monkhouse operating on the left.
Pittman was joined up front by Omar Bogle, while Pearson and Robinson sat alongside Richard Tait, Jack Mackreth and new loan signing Ben Tomlinson on the bench.
Tranmere started the match level on points with the Mariners and the visitors would look to the likes of former Forest Green striker James Norwood to secure a positive result.
The away side had most of the possession in the early stages, looking to keep the ball on the floor where possible.
Town, by contrast, were looking to be more direct and their first attack of note came on seven minutes, when a Monkhouse cross was headed away after a throw-in won by Bogle.
Bogle then had a shot deflected out for a corner after turning and letting fly from 25 yards. Arnold’s ball was poor but he was given another go when Steve Jennings sliced it behind.
This time, the winger’s delivery was headed by Nsiala at the far post and after it came back off the bar and Tranmere failed to clear their lines, PITTMAN was in the right place to force the ball over the line.
The visitors looked to respond immediately but a shot from the edge of the box by Adam Mekki proved comfortable for McKeown.
Jay Harris also hit a low effort which the Town keeper dived to stop, this time with 15 minutes on the clock.
Bogle won another corner soon afterwards but this time, the striker was beaten to Arnold’s delivery at the far post and Tranmere cleared.
A foul by Bogle gave the away side a chance to attack on 19 minutes but they were unable to create anything from it and the ball was played forward for Bogle to chase, although he was beaten to it.
At the other end, it was almost 1-1 when a cross came in from Adam Dawson following a corner and a free header by Jackson looked like it was on its way into the net until McKeown stretched up to get a hand to the ball and turn it onto the bar and over.
The game stopped for defender Liam Hogan to receive treatment for a head injury, before he was passed fit to continue.
Another stoppage came soon afterwards after Mekki went down injured but he was also fit to play on after getting treatment.
A foul on Arnold on the halfway line on the half-hour gave Town a free kick but Nsiala could only send it straight through to visiting keeper Scott Davies.
Hogan, seemingly still feeling the effects of his injury, was replaced by Marcus Holness, just after a good piece of play by the hosts which saw Bogle chest the ball down for strike-partner Pittman, who looked to switch it for Arnold but put too much power on his pass.
Moments of quality had been few and far between so far but Town appeared to be in control and looked the more likely to get the next goal.
Bogle had an opportunity to shoot on 40 minutes after good work by Disley on the edge of the box but he could not trouble Davies, flashing an effort off-target from the left.
Five added minutes were signalled by the fourth official and a foul on Bogle by Harris gave the Mariners an opportunity to get the ball into the danger zone in the fourth of the extra minutes. They could not take advantage though, as Arnold was eventually flagged offside.
No further chances were created before the referee’s half-time whistle, meaning Town held their one-goal lead going into the break.
Neither manager opted to make any further changes during the interval and after the restart, an early Grimsby attack was stopped when the offside flag went up against Monkhouse.
At the other end, a weak shot by Harris bounced harmlessly wide of McKeown’s goal after a free kick had been cleared as far as the former Wrexham midfielder.
Tranmere boss Gary Brabin sent striker Nathan Blissett on in place of Mekki five minutes in, as he looked to add extra attacking threat and increase the pressure on the home defence.
And the substitute made an almost instant impact as he levelled the scores on 53 minutes. The ball was played through the middle and the pace of BLISSETT saw him get to it before McKeown and flick it past the advancing keeper and into the far corner of the net.
The goal changed the complexion of the game and now, it was the visitors who were looking the more threatening of the two teams.
But the Mariners had the chance to reclaim their lead when Pittman did well to keep possession inside the Tranmere box on the hour and hold it up for Monkhouse, although the winger could only blast it over the bar.
Robertson won a corner on the left three minutes later but Town could not make it count, as Nsiala won the initial header but the away defence held firm.
Another corner was won by Clay on 65 minutes but the referee spotted an infringement as Arnold’s ball came across from the flag and the visitors were given a free kick.
Clay shot wide from 25 yards as Town looked to be building some momentum, before a good build-up down the left by Tramnere saw them win a corner at the other end, which was cleared by Pittman.
Another Grimsby corner on the left was headed clear by Blissett, before a Monkhouse cross was headed away and a low shot by Arnold was blocked by Matt Hill.
Tomlinson was given his Town debut as he replaced Pittman with 20 minutes to go, before Lois Maynard came on for Tranmere in place of Jackson.
A home penalty appeal came when Monkhouse went down inside the box but the referee instead pointed for a free kick the other way.
The tricky Adam Dawson created the next chance for Tranmere on 73 minutes, cutting in from the left and firing a shot that McKeown could only palm away towards Blissett, who was offside.
A Town free kick soon afterwards only succeeded in finding Davies in the Rovers goal, although the hosts were given another chance to pressurise the keeper with a corner a minute later. The Mariners kept possession after Tranmere failed to fully clear their lines and a shot from Tomlinson was eventually blocked.
Bogle was bundled over to bring about a Grimsby free kick on the left with 11 minutes left to play but Arnold’s ball was cleared.
Tomlinson then almost introduced himself to the Blundell Park fans in style, as a superb first touch took him away from his man before he smashed a swerving shot from 25 yards that Davies did well to get fingertips to and ensure the only damage was a corner.
A foul by Blissett on Disley earned the substitute the first yellow card of the night, before Clay was penalised for a push inside his own half. Neither side managed to create any danger from the resulting free kicks.
Steve Jennings was booked for a foul on East as he brought the ball out of defence and towards the halfway line with 86 minutes on the clock.
Mackreth was then sent on in place of Arnold for the remainder of the game and his first act was to take a corner on the right, before flashing a right-wing cross soon afterwards that beat everybody in front of goal.
Town kept attacking in search of a winning goal as the game moved into three minutes of added time but ultimately, it was not to come and the match ended all-square.
The Mariners are next in action on Tuesday, when they travel to Wrexham