Grimsby Town 1-1 Plymouth Argyle
GRIMSBY Town rounded off their season with an excellent display to claim a point in a 1-1 draw with Plymouth Argyle which denied the Devon side the League Two title.
In a superb game, the Mariners took the lead through Shaun Pearson in the first minute to silence the near-1,900 travelling Plymouth fans.
Town had chances to add to their lead before the break before Plymouth came out after half-time and poured forward in a bid to add to their already-assured promotion with the championship trophy itself.
They got an equaliser through substitute Jimmy Spencer but could not force the second goal which would have given them the trophy as the Mariners held firm to end their campaign on a high with a deserved point and ensure the season instead ended with Portsmouth on top of the table.
Three changes were made to the Town starting XI after last week’s 3-1 defeat at Barnet, with Tom Bolarinwa, Calum Dyson and Sean McAllister all coming into the team – McAllister included for the first time since August.
They replaced Brandon Comley, Scott Vernon and Jamey Osborne, all three of whom dropped to the bench.
James McKeown began in goal, with Ben Davies, Pearson, Danny Collins and newly-crowned Player of the Year Danny Andrew forming the defence.
Craig Disley, Tom Bolarinwa, McAllister and Chris Clements were the midfielders, with Calum Dyson given the nod to partner Sam Jones in attack.
Vernon, Comley and Osborne were joined among the substitutes by Josh Gowling, Andrew Boyce, Dan Jones and Adi Yussuf.
Plymouth made the long journey north from Devon knowing a win would be enough to see them lift the League Two championship trophy, regardless of results elsewhere.
Pilgrims boss Derek Adams would look to the likes of 14-goal top scorer Graham Carey to fire his team towards that target.
Town kicked off and won the first corner of the game within the opening 20 seconds. And the visiting supporters were silenced as the Mariners took the lead from the flag-kick, as Andrew’s delivery eventually fell for PEARSON to volley home from close range.
Plymouth had made a nervy start as Town did all the attacking in the opening minutes, with Davies allowed to send over a dangerous-looking cross from the right on three minutes which nobody in black and white could get on the end of.
A foul on Ryan Taylor gave the visitors an opportunity to respond but the delivery from the right was straight at McKeown, who caught the ball unchallenged.
McKeown was forced into his first save on seven minutes as Plymouth won a corner but the ball from the flag was dealt with by the Grimsby defence.
A foul by McAllister then gave the away side a free kick on the left but Carey’s ball was cleared by the former Scunthorpe midfielder.
The Mariners had a chance to double their lead when a good run by Bolarinwa into the box was spotted by Clements, who found him with an excellent pass. The winger could not make the most of it though, as he failed to lift the ball over visiting keeper Luke McCormick.
A low cross from Bolarinwa on the right on 17 minutes was blocked for a corner, although nobody could get to Andrew’s delivery from the flag and it went away for a Plymouth throw-in.
A foul on Bolarinwa near the halfway line gave Town a free kick which eventually led to another corner on the right after Clements’ chip had found Bolarinwa. This time, the ball from the flag was caught by McCormick.
A handball shout from the away supporters was agreed by the referee on 21 minutes and the visitors were given a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the Town penalty area. McKeown was equal to Carey’s shot from it and after some good defending by the hosts, striker Ryan Taylor eventually fired an overhead kick wide.
Dyson was spoken to by referee Ross Joyce after a foul on defender Sonny Bradley on 23 minutes, before Taylor was also spoken to for a similar offence against Pearson.
A good challenge by Davies stopped the progress of Carey as Plymouth kept looking to attack, with results elsewhere now going against them as the half-hour mark approached.
Another chance for Town came on 30 minutes when a chip by Disley found the run of Bolarinwa, although the winger’s effort lacked the power to trouble McCormick.
And another opportunity came when a long kick forward by McKeown went into the path of Jones, who looked to be pulled back as he fired an effort from inside the box that was well saved by McCormick, at the expense of a corner.
The next chance was created by Pearson, who got down the left and sent over a cross that was put over the bar by Jones.
The Mariners were doing all of the attacking and a corner came on the left on 36 minutes, which was punched clear by McCormick.
A foul on Dyson gave Town a free kick just inside the Plymouth half but an offside decision was given as Davies’ delivery was headed on inside the box.
The next attacking move by the Mariners began with a good challenge by Jones, who took the ball forward before finding Bolarinwa on the right. The winger then advanced and crossed for Jones, whose header missed the target.
At the other end, a foul on Antoni Sarcevic gave the visitors a free kick and after they took it quickly, the Mariners switched off but when the ball was crossed from the left, Jordan Slew’s header went over the bar.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and with no further chances created by either side, Grimsby’s one-goal advantage remained intact to give them a deserved lead at the interval and as it stood, Plymouth found themselves third in the table.
Nathan Blissett replaced Slew for the visitors before the restart as they looked for the two goals needed to turn the game around and secure the trophy.
And it was Plymouth who started the stronger, with McKeown forced to make a good save within two minutes after a shot came in from Carey on the edge of the box.
Town’s first attack of note saw Bolarinwa skip clear down the right but when he cut in and shot, it was straight at McCormick.
The Mariners were forced into a substitution with just five minutes of the half played, as Davies went down with an injury and was replaced by Boyce.
A foul by Disley on Gary Sawyer earned the midfielder a yellow card and gave the visitors a free kick which was punched clear by McKeown.
Taylor earned a free kick for Plymouth in a central position and 30 yards from goal on 57 minutes. Town survived it though, as Carey’s chip into the box was headed clear.
The away side’s second substitution saw Spencer come on for Matt Kennedy as they looked for an extra attacking threat in a bid to turn the game on its head.
And the new man had an instant impact, as the ball was flicked over the Town defence and SPENCER was the one to beat the offside trap and slot it past McKeown and into the net for 1-1 with 60 minutes on the clock.
Plymouth’s tails were now up and they went close to getting a second goal when Taylor let fly from 20 yards, only for McKeown to dive and get fingertips to the ball to turn it around the post for a corner.
That turned into a second corner in quick succession when the ball was headed away to the left and this time, it was headed clear by Collins.
Osborne came on in place of Bolarinwa for the Mariners as manager Russell Slade made his second change on 65 minutes.
A foul on Sarcevic gave Plymouth a free kick as they continued to push forward, with that championship trophy now firmly in their sights.
Clements gave away a free kick in a dangerous position on 70 minutes when he was adjudged to have fouled his man on the edge of the Town box. Carey took it but McKeown was equal to the effort, tipping it over his bar for a corner.
Grimsby attacks had not been as frequent as they were in the first half, although Dyson had an opportunity on 72 minutes where he curled a low shot from the edge of the box which was easy for McCormick.
Jones was booked for Town soon afterwards, before David Fox was also yellow-carded for a foul on the former Gateshead striker.
A Plymouth corner was headed clear by Disley, before a free kick was given on the edge of the Grimsby box for a foul on Bradley, which saw Pearson booked. This time, Carey’s shot hit the Town wall.
Plymouth’s final substitution saw Connor Smith replace Fox with eight minutes left, as the away side kept looking for that priceless second goal.
Carey won a corner on the right a minute later and from it, Blissett flicked a header just wide of the far post.
As Plymouth kept pouring forward with time running out, a foul by Disley gave the visitors a free kick but more heroic defending kept them out.
Comley replaced Disley, who departed to a standing ovation from the home supporters, as five added minutes were signalled.
Dyson was booked for a foul on defender Yann Songo’o as the visitors kept searching for a last-gasp winner but the free kick from halfway was headed clear by Collins.
Plymouth were still pressing after the five minutes were up but when it looked like they had an opening, McKeown dived on the ball to seal a point for Town and ensure a gutsy display got its reward.
The Mariners will now regroup over the summer and aim to build on a good first season back in the Football League with a promotion push next term