Matt Godden’s second goal in his second league appearance temporarily halted Grimsby’s title charge as the visitors, top of the table at start of play, had to accept nothing more than a point.
With Nathan Elder still not fit, Godden and Liam Enver-Marum again led the line, while Patrick Ada partnered Phil Walsh in defence as captain Paul Lorraine – replaced by Neil Barrett in his skipper’s duties – was suspended.
And Ada and Walsh might have been forgiven for thinking they were in for a torrid afternoon when – as happened against Grimsby last season – the visitors stormed in front inside the first three minutes. The goal came from a ball played from the centre by Ross Hannah out wide to Bury’s on-loan winger Marcus Marshall. With only Joe Howe in attendance, Marshall was able to compose himself and curl a fine shot from the edge of the box that evaded Preston Edward’s outstretched arm and flew into the top corner.
For 20 minutes, it looked like the Mariners were going to add to the scoreline at will as their quick, neat passing had the Fleet chasing shadows. With Aswad Thomas and Marshall pressing down the left, Fleet couldn’t find an outlet in Lanre Azeez and every ball forward was gathered easily by Thomas and the imposing figure of Nathan Pond.
On 10 minutes Andy Cook headed just wide from a Sam Hatton free-kick and his aerial ability was making life hard for the Fleet defenders to clear their lines. Marshall had another effort on target that Edwards gathered while Hannah was only inches from connecting with a low cross that caused consternation in the Fleet six-yard box.
But gradually the Fleet weathered the storm and forced a succession of corners. On 21 minutes, Godden must have thought he’d got his side back in it when the ball sat up nicely for him but his shot was somehow parried by goalkeeper James McKeown at full stretch.
The Fleet now enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy and Carew’s cross a minute later was sent inches over the top by Walsh who looked odds-on to score as he rose above the Grimsby defence. Carew’s influence was starting to show as suddenly Fleet had time on the ball and were able to release Azeez down the wing, though he was well marshalled throughout by Thomas.
The game swung back Grimsby’s way for a period but their control was nowhere near as complete as during the opening spell, though Edwards had to make a smart stop from Shaun Pearson at close range. At the other end, Enver-Marum and Phipp had fairly soft efforts on target, though Enver-Marum’s second effort – which McKeown somehow saved with his feet and then fortunately gathered the ball as it bounced off a teammate – was unlucky.
Fleet got the goal their resilience deserved three minutes before half-time when Tom Phipp’s ball in appeared to deflect off Craig Disley’s leg and it fell kindly for the quick-thinking Godden to stab it past McKeown from eight yards.
Fleet gave no quarter throughout the second half and, if anything, were more ambitious and gutsier than in the first. Gone was the long ball tactic of early in the game, Carew, Craig Stone and Godden in particular playing a number of delightful crossfield balls.
On 58 minutes it was Carew again who opened up the visitors’ defence and, with Grimsby at sixes and sevens, first Azeez and then Neil Barrett saw their shots rather fortuitously blocked in the six-yard box. Straight from that Fleet opportunity, Marshall raced forward for Grimsby and ran two third of the pitch before playing in Hannah whose fine shot was inches wide of the upright.
The game was going end to end, McKeown was again forced to save from Carew while Edwards prevented Marshall’s effort on 68 minutes. Both sides brought on forward men, Moses Ashikodi returning from injury for the Fleet, Michael Rankine for the Mariners – and with nine minutes left the Fleet had Walsh to thank for a timely interception when Derek Niven’s shot seemed to cannon off the Fleet No.5’s back and skew wildly over the crossbar with Edwards a mere spectator.
With the match on a knife-edge, goalkeeper McKeown – who had an evening to forget at Stonebridge Road last season – almost gifted the hosts the three points on 85 minutes. As he went for a routine clearance, he slipped and the ball fell behind for Godden who had an empty net in front of him. McKeown, however, redeemed himself, sprawling at Godden’s feet to push the ball away for a corner. Another second delayed and he would have been too late.
That was that as far as chances were concerned and Fleet will be happy with a fully-deserved draw after a nightmare start. A drop to 20th in the table will hardly be of concern given the overall picture shows the fast-improving Fleet still undefeated in six in the league.
TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Howe, Ada, Walsh, Barrett, Phipp, Carew, Azeez (Bellamy 81), Enver-Marum (Ashikodi 70), Godden. Subs not used: Menz, Greenhalgh, Blake.