Match report: Late equaliser earns Town a point against Stevenage
An injury-time equaliser salvaged a point for Grimsby Town at home to Stevenage in League Two this afternoon.
Jake Reeves thought he’d grabbed all three points for the away side, before Niall Maher poked home a late goal for the Mariners at Blundell Park.
Paul Hurst made four changes from the side that lost at home to Doncaster Rovers last weekend, with Maher, Danny Amos, Kieran Green and John McAtee all returning to the starting lineup.
Town came into the game looking to end a run of three straight league defeats, but they knew that wouldn’t be an easy task against a Stevenage side that sat second in the table and were unbeaten in five matches on the road.
Centre-half Maher joined Luke Waterfall and Andy Smith in a back three, allowing the full-backs more license to push forward and join in with the attacking play.
The game got off to a slow start, with both sides lacking quality in the final third and failing to create any real chances in front of goal.
The first major opportunity fell to the visitors on 15 minutes, as Michee Efete let a ball bounce over his head in the area and it dropped to the feet of Max Clark, who skewed an awkward-looking effort just past Max Crocombe’s post.
Efete was again involved at the other end less than a minute later when he rose highest to meet a ball into the box, but his powerful header went about a yard over the bar.
The Mariners almost took the lead on 25 minutes after a neat move forced Taye Ashby-Hammond to come racing off his line to intercept McAtee’s through ball to Otis Khan, but his unconvincing clearance fell to Amos, who rifled a low effort towards the empty net and the keeper just got back to block the shot.
Stevenage were gifted an excellent opportunity to go ahead 11 minutes before the break when a loose ball from Maher was intercepted by Terence Vancooten and the midfielder unleashed a fierce effort that was well-blocked by Maher. It then fell to Danny Rose, whose volley was hit straight at Crocombe.
Town were then provided the chance to take the lead from the spot on 38 minutes. A quick counter saw McAtee and Clifton go two-on-one with a defender, with the former playing in his teammate and he was brought down by the onrushing Ashby-Hammond.
But from the resulting spot-kick, McAtee hit a tame effort to the keeper’s right and he pushed it well wide of the goal.
On the brink of half-time, Khan went agonisingly close to opening the scoring, with his curling effort hitting the inside of the post and McAtee was just unable to divert the rebound into the net.
It was Khan that had the first chance of the second half, as Clifton latched onto McAtee’s through ball, before laying the ball back to the winger inside the box, but he just couldn’t quite find enough room and his shot was blocked behind for a corner.
Following a five-minute spell of sustained pressure from the Mariners, the away side broke well on the counter and Clark’s curling effort just went wide of the goal.
While Town were the side showing more intent to get forward, chances were at a premium over the next 15 to 20 minutes, as they lacked that killer pass to breakdown Stevenage’s sturdy defence.
The visitors went close to grabbing a goal in a rare attack forward when a shot took a huge deflection and almost looped over Crocombe, but he just managed to tip it over the bar to ensure the game remained goalless with a quarter of an hour to play.
It didn’t stay that way for much longer, though, as their next attack saw Reeves find himself free on the edge of the box and his low strike went beyond the reach of the Town keeper and in off the post on 79 minutes.
With five minutes left on the clock, Maher had a chance to head home from a corner, but his effort was blocked on the line, where a number of players were gathered around the keeper.
Following some increased pressure from Town, Maher wasn’t to be denied again, as he managed to poke the ball into the corner of the net for a deserved equalising goal at the start of seven minutes of injury-time.
Both sides suddenly opened up as they went in search of a late winner. It was Stevenage that went closest, but Crocombe did superbly well to come out and block Luke Norris’s effort at the back post.
After a frantic last few minutes, the game ended all-square to ensure Town didn’t fall victim of a fourth league defeat in a row against one of the League Two promotion favourites.