Grimsby Town 1 Lincoln 1: No repeat of Boxing Day demolition as Mariners have to scrap for a point
SIX days is a long time in football – as Grimsby Town supporters found at Blundell Park yesterday afternoon.
A week ago today, the Mariners were celebrating a 4-1 Boxing Day demolition of neighbours Lincoln City at Sincil Bank. Surely, it would be even easier on home turf?
Well, no actually. The Imps saw an opportunity for revenge, a chance to seize back the bragging rights – and the added incentive of stalling their rivals' title push.
As a result, they were the better side for most of the New Year's Day clash and, in all honesty, should have won.
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But, to their credit, an under-par Town battled away – with one man less for more than 20 minutes – and grabbed what could prove to be a priceless point.
The Mariners' bosses selected an unchanged side for the derby showdown. Ian Miller retained his place at centre-half, with Shaun Pearson again on the bench, while Andy Cook and Greg Pearson led the line.
The visiting Imps were without skipper Gary Mills, and there was a change of keeper, with David Preece replacing Paul Farman after the latter's error-ridden display on Boxing Day.
Former Mariner Scott Garner also lined-up for Lincoln and was in the referee's notebook within four minutes after a 'robust' challenge on Marcus Marshall near the touchline.
Vadaine Oliver glanced a limp header ten yards wide as the opening moments were as scrappy as in the clash six days earlier.
The opening goal wasn't exactly a moment of quality either, as Alan Power's speculative effort from 25 yards deflected off a Town defender, wrong-footing keeper James McKeown, and bouncing into the net.
It was a goal laced with fortune but the visiting fans didn't care and Lincoln had a precious lead.
The hosts looked for an instant response and when Aswad Thomas' superb cross from the left was dropped by Preece at the far post, Joe Colbeck look certain to score from ten yards out.
However, Preece atoned for his error with an excellent block and when Colbeck left his foot in on the keeper, looking for a rebound, the first of many scuffles ensued.
Colbeck escaped punishment, although McKeown did receive a yellow card for something said after racing down the field.
The injured Preece was replaced by Farman moments later – to the ironic cheers of the home support.
Lincoln had come to frustrate the leaders, and it was working, until the 21st minute when Miller brought the Mariners level.
Marshall worked his way past two defenders on the Town left before being hauled down just outside the box. Colbeck's free-kick was flicked out to Miller and the centre-back could have been mistaken for a forward as he volleyed home spectacularly off the right-hand post.
Back came the away side, however. McKeown made a hash of a deep cross and was thankful for a clearance off the line, and Jake Sheridan forced the Town keeper into action again with a bobbling effort from inside the box.
Nicky Nicolau had McKeown at full-stretch on the half hour with a low drive before Oliver smashed a pile-driver straight down the stopper's throat a minute later.
The visitors were looking the stronger side and, although Greg Pearson scuffed the ball wide at one end, the Imps should have been ahead again in the 35th minute.
Andrew Boyce's superb drive was somehow tipped up and onto the crossbar and the Town keeper was still getting up when he blocked Jamie Taylor's follow-up header.
Three minutes before the break and the visitors were certain they had scored again when Nathan Pond's last-ditch clearance kept Sheridan's far post header out of the net.
Whether it had crossed the line or not was debatable but, despite Sheridan's frenzied appeals, the linesman was unmoved and the scores remained all square at the break.
The first half hadn't gone to plan, with Town looking lacklustre, as their visitors dominated possession and territory.
And Lincoln were first to create a chance in the second period as well, as Taylor wriggled past Miller and Pond in the 56th minute and curled a fine effort towards the corner of McKeown's goal. However, the stopper went full-length again to claw the ball away.
Town had penalty appeals waved away by Evans five minutes later after Cook tumbled in the box trying to get on the end of a Colbeck corner.
Boyce then headed over the home crossbar from close range as the visitors continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides.
For all the away side's endeavour, it was the Mariners who were oh so close to taking the lead 23 minutes from time.
Sam Hatton's enticing free-kick from the right was met by substitute Dayle Southwell, whose glancing header looked destined for the bottom corner.
The unlikely Lincoln hero was Farman, who pushed the ball away and, after an almighty scramble, the visitors hacked it clear.
Moments later and the hosts were down to ten men as another scuffle broke out and Thomas was red carded for apparently raising his hands. Lincoln's Tom Miller also received a caution for his role in the unsavoury incident. Bradley Wood came on at left-back as Colbeck was the man to be sacrificed.
Michael Rankine joined him for the last nine minutes as Cook made way, while Wood and Craig Disley also picked up cautions as the frustration mounted at Blundell Park.
Power had another 25-yarder deflected inches wide as the clash moved into four minutes of additional time.
And Town could have snatched all three points a minute later as Marshall glided past three defenders before cutting the ball back for Southwell, whose shot was superbly blocked six yards out with the goal gaping.
Remarkably, there was still time for another red card as Imps substitute Adam Smith ploughed through Wood and received his marching orders.
That proved to be the last action of an encounter which saw the Mariners well below their best, but, most importantly, grab a draw that keeps them one point clear at the top of the Conference table.
And a four-point haul from two matches with the old enemy over the festive period isn't too bad, after all.