Emile Acquah. Photo: Darren Woolley
Maidenhead United 1, Grimsby Town 1
They came in hope rather than expectation, but Maidenhead United’s fans were rewarded with a committed display which saw the Magpies battle back from a goal down to grab a share of the spoils.
Having come into the game off the back of four consecutive defeats, there was little optimism among the home crowd for a positive result, especially against a Mariners side who’d won five of their opening six matches since their demotion from League 2 last season.
However, after falling behind in the 73rd minute to a well-taken volley from Erico Sousa, they responded in fine fashion 10 minutes later when Kane Ferdinand rose well to head home Shaun Donnellan’s cross from the right.
The initial omens weren’t especially good, with goalkeeper Rhys Lovett spilling a fiercely struck shot from John McAtee in the opening minutes, but the home side settled the better and were unfortunate not to have the lead at the interval.
Just as at Meadow Lane the previous week, chances came and went for the Magpies, with Sam Barratt looking their most likely scorer or creator.
Having forced a series of corners, midfielder Ryan Upward appeared to be impeded in the box as he leapt to try and turn home a cross in the 10th minute, before Charlee Adams tested James McKeown with a daisy-cutter, the Mariners’ keeper getting down well to his right to keep the ball out. Emile Acquah missed the best of the home side’s chances a couple of minutes later, however, when Barratt beat his marker and whipped in a wonderful cross from the right. It seemed certain the net would bulge as it fell onto the head of the unmarked striker, but Acquah sent the chance wide.
As if to illustrate their struggles, McAtee was forced into a strike from 35 yards on the half-hour, but it bounced harmlessly wide.
Michael Efete might have done better when he headed over at the back post from a Grimsby corner 10 minutes before the break, but it helped bring the visitors to life in the closing stages of the period, and only some resilient defending from the likes of Donnellan and Alan Massey prevented them from taking the lead. Josh Kelly had linked up well with Acquah and Barratt in the first half and probably should have done better with a decent chance on the stroke of half-time. The Magpies broke quickly and Acquah did well to thread the ball through to Kelly on the edge of the area, but he wasn’t able to keep his shot down and the ball flew over the bar.
Devonshire would have asked for more of the same at half-time and, that’s exactly what he got, in effort and enthusiasm at least. The Magpies started the half well and had a couple of opportunities, the second of which, a back post header by Kelly from another Barratt cross, was well saved by McKeown. But Grimsby also improved after the interval and Lovett pulled off a brilliant, instinctive save to keep out Alex Hunt’s rising drive in the 55th minute.
However, in the 73rd minute all their hard work was undone by a couple of defensive lapses. First, Alan Massey allowed Harry Clifton to slip past him on the right and he was able to pick out the unmarked Erico Sousa who volleyed into the corner of the net past Lovett.
United hit back within 10 minutes, Donnellan whipping in a great ball for Ferdinand to head past McKeown. There was late pressure from the visitors, but they created little of note and United held out to stop the rot and avoid a fifth straight league defeat.
Magpies boss, Alan Devonshire reflected: “It would have been criminal if we didn’t get something out of that. We’ve got a result and we’ve stopped the rot and can move on. I thought we were solid, and we also looked dangerous. I don’t think our wide boys played that well, they’d probably admit that, but we’ve managed to come away with a 1-1 draw. It’s all good for the future.”
Mariners boss Paul Hurst added: “It looked like a performance where maybe we’d just done enough to win, but that would have been a little bit harsh on Maidenhead. There are different ways to win games. You’re not always going to blow teams away and dominate possession, but overall, there was a lack of enthusiasm to get on the ball and the energy levels were lower than anticipated.”