Match Report: Grimsby Town 2-2 Forest Green Rovers

Grimsby Town and Forest Green Rovers shared the points after an entertaining contest in difficult conditions at Blundell Park.

The Mariners, playing with a strong wind behind them, dominated the opening half-hour and had taken a deserved lead through Charles Vernam.

But they were pegged back when Odin Bailey fired an unstoppable shot from distance into the top corner of the net and the visitors completed the turnaround when Jack Aitchison struck five minutes after half-time.

Town were only behind for three minutes though, as Anthony Glennon’s first goal for the club made it 2-2.

Josh Benson came in for his first start for Town after playing all but the first few minutes of Tuesday night’s win over Stevenage in the absence of the injured Jake Hessenthaler.

That was the only change to the starting XI, with goalkeeper James McKeown behind a defence of Luke Hendrie, Mattie Pollock, Ludvig Ohman and Glennon.

Benson was joined in midfield by Harry Clifton and Elliott Whitehouse, with Vernam, James Hanson and Billy Clarke in attack.

The substitutes were Luke Waterfall, Matt Green, Max Wright, Brandon Buckley, James Tilley, Elliott Hewitt and Sam Russell.

Forest Green were looking to hit back following a poor run of form which culminated in a 4-1 home defeat by Carlisle in midweek.

A late challenge on Hanson brought an early free-kick for the home side, before their first shooting opportunity came on six minutes when Vernam saw an effort blocked from just inside the penalty area.

At the other end, a low cross from the left went through to McKeown and he looked to launch a quick counter-attack but his kick was too strong for Vernam to reach before the ball went out for a throw-in.

A good run by Glennon through the middle almost led to a chance on 15 minutes but the left-back’s through-ball went just too far ahead of Vernam for him to get on the end of it.

The first corner of the game came soon afterwards when a long ball from Pollock was sliced out by Carl Winchester. Clarke’s ball from the flag went to the far post but nobody in black and white could get a touch to it.

The Mariners took the lead soon afterwards though, with a brilliant team goal which saw several passes to build play up before the ball went out to Glennon on the left. His low cross was touched back to VERNAM, who finished well from 10 yards.

Whitehouse sent a shot through to visiting keeper Conrad Logan after more good work by Vernam as Town attacked again on 23 minutes.

And as the half-hour mark passed, the hosts were completely dominating the game, playing plenty of good football with a strong wind at their backs as Forest Green were yet to threaten McKeown’s goal.

But that quickly changed on 33 minutes as the visitors drew level completely against the run of play. BAILEY got the ball 30 yards out, worked an opening and rifled a fantastic shot past the keeper and into the top corner of the net.

Clifton was shown the first yellow card of the game after a foul on midfielder Ebou Adams near the halfway line and soon afterwards, the away side should have been ahead. The ball was played to Bailey on the right and after his cross was not fully dealt with by McKeown, it fell for Jack Aitchison at the far post but he could only lift it over the bar.

A Forest Green corner from the left resulted in another one after a far-post header was pushed over the bar by McKeown. This time, the delivery from Winchester on the right was caught by the keeper.

Kevin Dawson fired over the bar from 20 yards after good play by Bailey for the away side, before Liam Kitching was booked for a late challenge on Hanson.

Hanson did well to control a long ball forward soon afterwards and head it across for Whitehouse but the midfielder could not fully connect with a volley.

Two added minutes were played at the end of the first half and with no further chances for either team, the scores remained level at the break.

Town had been the better side for much of the half and deserved to be ahead but after Bailey’s equaliser, the visitors came into the game more to leave it nicely poised at half-time.

No changes were made before the restart and Hendrie conceded an early free-kick for a push on striker Josh March on the away left. Bailey’s ball into the box from it was cleared by Glennon.

The away side took the lead five minutes in when AITCHISON beat the offside trap to get onto the end of a nice through-ball from Kitching before slotting past McKeown and into the far corner of the net.

But the Mariners were not behind for long, as a cross from Clifton on the right was headed on by Hanson and GLENNON was in the right place at the far post to prod the ball past Logan and make it 2-2.

Winchester was booked for a late challenge on Hendrie, before Tilley replaced Clifton as the hosts made the first substitution on 55 minutes.

A foul by Hendrie gave Forest Green a free kick in a dangerous, central position near the edge of the Town box but they could not take advantage as Bailey lifted it over the bar.

A Clarke free kick from the right was headed away as the Mariners attacked in search of reclaiming their advantage.

Another opportunity came when a ball from Clarke found Whitehouse on the left but his cross was touched back to keeper Logan by Kitching.

Robert Hall replaced Dawson in midfield for the visitors on 70 minutes and he was immediately involved in an attack which was eventually stopped when Clarke cleared.

A foul by Vernam gave away a free kick on the Forest Green right but again, they could not make it count and the ball was cleared.

Bailey won a corner on the right on 77 minutes but it came to nothing as a shot from Hall was blocked after the ball had been played short.

Town were also pushing forward whenever possible and Vernam created a chance for himself with a driving run through the middle but could only find the Pontoon Stand with his shot.

Soon afterwards, a foul on Tilley by Adams gave the Mariners a free-kick, right of centre. Clarke’s shot was collected by Logan at the second attempt.

A quick counter-attack by Forest Green saw Bailey do well to keep the ball in and find Hall but his low effort was blocked by McKeown.

Town made a double substitution with eight minutes to go as Green and Wright replaced Hanson and Whitehouse.

The visitors responded with a change of their own, sending Aaron Collins on for March.

The fourth official signalled three minutes to be played at the end of the game and Hendrie became the latest to be shown the yellow card in the first of them after Matty Stevens had replaced Aitchison.

A late penalty shout was waved away after Wright went down inside the box and that proved to be the last opportunity for either side as the game ended level.

Town are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Bradford City.

Town: McKeown (c), Hendrie, Pollock, Öhman, Glennon, Clifton, Benson, Whitehouse, Vernam, Hanson, Clarke.

Subs: Russell, Tilley, Hewitt, Waterfall, Green, Buckley, Wright.

FGR: Logan,  Bernard, McGinley, Rawson, Kitching, Winchester (C), Dawson, Adams, March, Aitchison, Bailey.

Subs: Thomas, Mills, Frear, Williams, Collins,  Hall,  Stevens.

Referee: Paul Marsden

Attendance: 4675 (76)

Possession: Town 61%-39% FGR


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