REPORT | Mariners held on opening day

Jake Eastwood saved a penalty to ensure Grimsby Town started the new season with a point from a goalless draw with AFC Wimbledon at Blundell Park.

In an even contest to open the Sky Bet League Two campaign, Town began at a high tempo and they created most of the better chances in the first half, although the away side also had some spells of pressure.

After the break, the visitors were given an opportunity to open the scoring when Harry Clifton pulled substitute Ali Al-Hamadi back inside the box, although the striker was denied from the spot by the keeper, who also got up to block the rebound.

The Mariners pushed forward in the closing stages in  bid to force a winner but in the end, defences were on top as the game ended level.

Eastwood was given the nod to start in goal for Town ahead of Harvey Cartwright, while there was a place on the bench for the club’s newest recruit, Arthur Gnahoua, after his signing was announced earlier in the day.

Eastwood lined up behind a defence of Toby Mullarkey, Harvey Rodgers, Niall Maher and Anthony Glennon, while Clifton, Kamil Conteh, Alex Hunt and Charles Vernam made up the midfield as captain Danny Rose led the attack alongside Abo Eisa.

Cartwright and Gnahoua were joined as substitutes by Michee Efete, Luke Waterfall, Kieran Green, Evan Khouri and Rekeil Pyke.

Wimbledon travelled north looking to start the season with an away win, with former Mariners winger James Tilley among their starting XI.

Town won the first corner of the afternoon inside the opening minute and Hunt’s delivery from the flag picked Glennon out but the left-back’s volley flew wide from 20 yards.

A low cross from Vernam was cleared and a shot by Mullarkey was blocked as the home side set off at a high tempo, then Josh Davison was caught offside at the other end as he met an Armani Little cross.

Davison was unable to direct a header towards goal after Tilley crossed from the right, then another ball into the box led to the visitors’ first corner as they continued to come into the game.

Eisa curled a shot over the bar from the right on 13 minutes, then Glennon let fly from 20 yards after a run through the middle but his low attempt was straight at Dons goalkeeper Alex Bass.

Vernam set off on a run across the pitch on 22 minutes but could only hit Bass with a strike from a narrow angle, then Rose sent a shot just wide from the edge of the box as Town continued to attack.

A home penalty appeal was waved away by the referee after Rose went down under contact inside the box, then a spell of Wimbledon pressure led to a corner when a low ball across the six-yard line was intercepted by Rodgers.  Josh Neufville’s header from the flag-kick was tipped behind by Eastwood for another one, which was headed wide by Ryan Johnson.

The game was moving from end to end at pace and Town won a corner of their own on 36 minutes.  Hunt’s delivery was headed back across goal by Mullarkey but nobody could get on the end of the loose ball and Wimbledon cleared.

The home side’ s best move of the match so far came three minutes before the break and saw Eisa slip the ball to Glennon on the left.  His cross found Rose but the striker was stretching and could not direct his header towards goal.

At the other end, Jake Reeves found Tilley but after cutting inside from the right, the winger dragged his shot wide.

Three added minutes were played at the end of the first half and the Mariners finished it on the attack, with Vernam winning a throw-in after a run down the left.  It eventually led to Eisa putting the ball into the net but the offside flag had already gone up.

That meant the score remained goalless at the break after an entertaining half where both sides had enjoyed spells of pressure but Town had created the better chances.


No changes were made before the restart and the visitors had the first chance of the second half as Neufville headed over the bar from a right-wing cross.

A foul on Clifton by Johnson brought a free kick on the right and earned the Dons defender the first yellow card of the game.  Hunt sent the ball from it towards the far post and after it was headed back as far as Clifton, the midfielder’s curling strike dropped just wide.

The hosts went close again on 52 minutes when Rodgers tried his luck with a powerful drive from 25 yards which keeper Bass had to push away for a corner.

Town kept pushing forward and another corner came from a deflection on a Clifton strike from 20 yards.  Hunt’s ball from the flag eventually came back to him but the attack was stopped by the offside flag.

Al-Hamadi replaced Davison in the Wimbledon attack as the away side made the first substitution on 55 minutes.

Town were still on the attack though and their latest corner led to another one, although this time, Glennon’s ball was dealt with.

The best chance so far came soon afterwards when a good move by the visitors saw Al-Hamadi, who had immediately made a difference for the visitors, go clear through the middle.  He was pulled back inside the box by Clifton, who was yellow-carded, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot but Al-Hamadi was denied by Eastwood, who also got up to make a brilliant block from the rebound.

At the other end, a low, curling strike from Eisa was deflected just past the post but the danger from the resulting corner was dealt with.

Another corner came when Bass made a good save from a deflected shot by Konteh but again, Town were unable to create a chance from it and the away side had the next opportunity when Little fired wide.

Konteh was booked for a foul midway inside the Grimsby half on 69 minutes, although Rose got to the ball from the free kick first to head clear.

Gnahoua replaced Vernam in Town’s first change with 13 minutes to go, after Tilley had missed the target from the visitors’ latest chance.

Wimbledon were continuing to grow in confidence and they introduced Harry Pell in place of Omar Bugiel for the last 11 minutes in a bid to force a winner.

Town’s next substitution came moments later, with Green replacing Hunt in the centre of midfield.

Both sides were still pushing for a winning goal as the clock ticked down and Green was booked for a foul near the halfway line.

The fourth official signalled nine added minutes and Wimbledon won a corner in the first of them but the ball from the flag was headed clear.

Pyke replaced Clifton as Town kept going forward and a foul on Eisa earned them a free kick in a dangerous, central position.  Reeves was booked for the challenge but the Mariners were not able to capitalise following Glennon’s chip into the box.

Pyke was shown the yellow card for a poor challenge near the corner flag, before the hosts had a final opportunity to win the game from a free kick on the right.  Again though, they could not make it count as Glennon’s ball was headed clear in what was the last action of the afternoon.

That meant it finished level and Town will now switch their focus to Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup trip to Mansfield Town.



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