Marine 1-1 Grantham Town
Hughes' header leaves Gingerbreads half-baked at MTA...
Adam Hughes' 90th minute header salvaged a point for Marine against Grantham Town at the Marine Travel Arena. Vinny Bailey and James Edgar replaced Kenny Strickland and Scott Bakkor in Tommy Lawson's starting eleven as the Mariners sought a first win in ten games.
The Crosby side created the first scoring opportunity as James Short and Michael Brewster showed composure in their own half, Brewster's ball forward being headed by George Lomax into Vinny Bailey's path. Bailey advanced and stepped inside a defender's challenge but couldn't provide the finish the move merited, his right-footed effort from the edge of the box flying high and wide of target.
Grantham came a whisker away from taking the lead in their first meaningful attack as a ball fed in from their left found midfielder Wright just outside the area, his powerful shot grazing the angle of post and crossbar.
The Gingerbreads continued to threaten down their left flank and a cross saw striker Hempenstall rise highest but the ex-Brackley forward headed comfortably wide of goal.
The Whites were enjoying their share of play in the opening half-hour and James Murray showed tenacity on the right to find Bailey after his initial cross had been blocked, Bailey in turn being denied by a block from a yellow-shirted defender.
On 20 minutes Grantham midfielder Meadows placed a shot a yard wide of Barnes' left-hand upright after the Marine 'keeper had punched clear, before the same player came even closer just a minute later. A corner from the Town left saw Meadows rise unchallenged to send a header crashing against the crossbar from 12 yards out, the rebound being cleared as far as Grantham skipper Galinski whose rising drive from 25 yards cleared the bar to the relief of the home faithful.
The Lincolnshire side were now firmly in the ascendancy as Marine struggled to maintain possession in attack. James Short tried his luck with an ambitious but well-struck shot from fully 30 yards which cleared the bar by a yard or two, before the visitors made the breakthrough eight minutes before the interval.
The Marine rearguard proved their own worst enemies on this occasion as Barnes and Freeland tried to play out from the back, the Gingerbreads applying pressure and Wright pinched possession, cutting in from the left before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner from the 'd'.
Town sought to extend their lead as half-time approached, Hempenstall warming Barnes' palms, whilst leading scorer Shaw beat Hughes to the byline but his heavy touch allowed to Barnes to bravely claim at the striker's feet as Shaw advanced toward goal.
The Gingerbreads firmly had the bit between their teeth and the half-time whistle could hardly have been better timed for Lawson's troops as they looked to respond after the break.
The Mariners emerged on the front foot as Brewster found Murray in space, the winger taking a touch but slicing his finish wide of goal from 15 yards as a defender closed.
At the other end the dangerous Shaw stepped inside Michael Grogan's challenge, Barnes parrying Shaw's daisy-cutter and his teammates recovered to clear.
Marine then spurned a great chance to equalise on 51 minutes as play ebbed and flowed, Short's cross picking out Bailey who flicked a header from six yards out but which was directed straight at visiting custodian Preston, the keeper' parrying at close quarters and the Grantham defence were relieved to clear.
James Edgar was next to be denied by a strong challenge from a Grantham defender, before the visitors countered and Hempenstall's shot was blocked with the rebound falling to Meadows who fired narrowly high and wide from 22 yards.
New signing Chris Lomax was introduced in place of Edgar and his cross from the left evaded brother George as he challenged with a defender, the ball taking the onrushing Billy Smart by surprise as it bounced off his thigh at the back-post and behind for a goal-kick.
Chances continued to be created by both teams as Hempenstall's shot from distance appeared to be tipped over by the flying Barnes, however referee Cox awarded a goal-kick, before the big 'keeper made two smart blocks with his feet from Wright's initial effort and Shaw's rebound.
Urged on by the vociferous MTA faithful the Mariners twice threatened as Brewster's low shot was held securely by Preston, before Chris Lomax eyed instant-hero status but snatched at his shooting chance and the ball rolled tamely wide of target.
With seven minutes remaining the Gingerbreads were reduced to ten-men as substitute centre-back Lewis, who had replaced injured Grantham skipper Galinski, was given his second caution in the space of 15 minutes by referee Cox. On both occasions the lanky defender had pulled a Marine attacker's shirt and the punishment meted out to Lewis was correct in both instances, the only question being whether the Mariners could capitalise on their numerical advantage with time running out.
The Whites came close on 87 minutes as a neat exchange saw George Lomax find Murray who in turn slipped the ball into Smart's path, the midfielder directing his finish straight at Preston under strong pressure from a Grantham defender.
However the Mariners duly restored parity in the final minute of the 90 following a spell of pressure, as Short's cross was met by Hughes, the home skipper's header looping over Preston and underneath the crossbar to spark jubilant scenes at the MTA.
With six minutes added time to follow the Mariners looked to grab all three points, and Brewster's low centre found George Lomax, the young striker only being denied by a fine block by Grantham right-back Potts.
Short's well-struck shot from 25 yards was then spilled by Preston, but the Town 'keeper recovered in the nick of time to prevent Murray from latching onto the rebound.
Barnes had to remain alert to deny Shaw's effort from an acute angle as time elapsed, a spirited performance by Marine ultimately being rewarded with a share of the spoils.
The Mariners make the trek to Cumbria on Tuesday evening (7:45pm ko) to face Workington in their next Evostik Premier Division fixture.
Marine: Ben Barnes, Adam Freeland, James Short, Adam Hughes (c), Michael Grogan (Peter Wylie 90), Billy Smart, James Murray, Michael Brewster, Vinny Bailey, George Lomax, James Edgar (Chris Lomax 61).
Unused subs: Kenny Strickland, Seb Bradshaw, Germano Mendes. Cautions: Freeland, Brewster, Smart.
Grantham Town: Kieran Preston, Tom Potts, Oliver Luto, Matthew Baker, Stefan Galinski (c) (Rhys Lewis 68), Michael Hollingsworth, Daniel Meadows, Andrew Wright (Tom Curtis 88), Jordan Hempenstall (Curtis Burrows 84), Lee Shaw, Luke Shaw.
Unused subs: Danny Martin. Cautions: Lewis x2. Sent Off: Lewis.
Goals: Marine; Hughes (90)
Grantham Town; Wright (37)
Referee: Mr Nathaneal Cox
Assistants: Mr Steven Holder and Mr Daniel Sanderson