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Grimsby 1 Blues 1
By: Bill Osborne
THE MARINERS heaped damage on Birmingham's push for Division One promotion as they held the visitors to a 1-1 draw. Although going a goal down in the 16th minute, an Alan Pouton penalty in the final kick of the first half took both sides into the dressing room all square at the break.
Grimsby, fighting to pull clear of the relegation zone, almost grabbed a win with a wealth of chances after the break, but were denied by a goal-line clearance and the woodwork in a frantic second half.
Zhang Enhua, making his last home appearance before joining up with the Chinese World Cup squad, had a second-half shot come back off the goalposts.
Early on Birmingham had an Andrew Johnson goal disallowed for offside after some clever work between Dele Adebola and Nicky Eaden led to the 20 year old striker finding the net for the Blues.
However, JOHNSON made amends by managing to grab the opening goal, tapping the ball under goalkeeper Danny Coyne as Enhua was caught napping by a through ball from Stan Lazaridis in the 10th minute. The Bedford-born forward almost added to his tally shortly after, when Paul Groves left Coyne stranded with a misdirected back-pass.
The Grimsby centre back hit the clearance straight into Johnson's path, but the ball ricocheted out for a goal kick. Birmingham went close once more with Eaden shooting straight at Coyne, after Johnson had set the midfielder up.
Wayne Burnett went down injured after a nasty tackle by defender Darren Purse and was later replaced by Pouton, who almost immediately received a yellow card for a foul on Johnson.
Jeffrey then had a shot which was saved by Ian Bennett and Purse headed it out for a corner. Stuart Campbell took the corner, and Peter Atherton for some unknown reason handled the ball, leaving referee Paul Danson with no choice but to award a spot kick.
POUTON stepped up to take the penalty, and scored the equaliser with a well-placed shot leaving Birmingham keeper Bennett with no chance.
Enhua almost gave away a penalty when the Chinese international pushed over Andrew Johnson in the box but nothing was awarded in favour of the Birmingham striker, who was a handful all evening to the Grimsby defence. Shortly afterwards another appeal for a penalty against Paul Groves was turned down after the Grimsby skipper appeared to handle the ball.
Grimsby by this time were creating the bulk of the chances with left back Tony Gallimore firing in a wicked shot from a free kick which deflected off the leg of Curtis Woodhouse, but Blues keeper Bennett just managed to get his hands to the ball and made a save low to his right.
Groves then headed a ball down which was just cleared off the line by Eaden and an Enhua shot rattled the goal posts.
Sensing victory, Grimsby piled on the pressure but were unable to break the deadlock and Grimsby manager Lennie Lawrence was worried that the push might provide Birmingham with an opportunity to score on the break, but the final whistle blew with neither side making any significant headway in their respective battles at both ends of the league table.
Grimsby Town: Coyne, McDermott, Enhua, Groves, Gallimore, Donovan, Burnett (Pouton,36), Coldicott (Willems,72) , Campbell, Cornwall (Clare, 72), Jeffrey
Subs not used: Croudson, Handyside
Birmingham City: Bennett, Atherton, Eaden (McCarthy, 80) , Grainger, Holdsworth, Purse, Lazaridis (Hughes, 67), Pollock, Woodhouse, Adebola (Horsfield, 66) , Johnson A
Subs not used: Poole, Gill
Referee: P S Danson (Leicester)
Birmingham: Jamie Pollock and Purse
Grimsby: Pouton, Enhua and Willems.
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