By Steve Hood
Bristol Rovers kicked off the new Vanarama Conference season with a goalless draw with Grimsby Town at the Memorial Stadium.
Darrell Clarke opted for a three at the back formation with Tom Lockyer and Tom Parkes alongside skipper Mark McChrystal. The Rovers starting 11 also included summer signings Stuart Sinclair, Lee Mansell, Andy Monkhouse, Daniel Leadbitter and Matty Taylor.
Rovers had the first chance of the game inside the opening five minutes as a Tom Parkes free kick, from just inside the Grimsby half, fell to Ryan Brunt who could only fire into the hands of James McKeown.
Andy Monkhouse’s searching ball found Ryan Brunt again in the penalty area, but again Brunt could only get a tame shot off having been under heavy pressure from two Grimsby defenders.
The home side’s new signings were linking up well through the middle with Matty Taylor feeding Andy Monkhouse, but he wasn’t able to get a shot off from the edge of the area.
Rovers had extended spells of possession in the first half but struggled to break down a resolute Grimsby defence.
Grimsby came out will all guns blazing in the second half and it took a fantastic reaction save from Steve Mildenhall to block Paddy McLaughlin’s close range effort.
At the other end Matty Taylor came closest to breaking the deadlock for the home side having been put clean through on goal. The former Forest Green man forced a superb save from the Grimsby keeper, who pushed the shot behind.
Alan Connell came closest for the visitors with an hour played but saw his effort cleared off the line by Tom Parkes. Mildenhall didn’t get enough on a Grimsby cross into the area and the ball fell to Connell who looked destined to score only for Parkes to save the day.
Stuart Sinclair, Ollie Clarke, Matty Taylor and skipper Mark McChrystal all had efforts within the last 20 minutes but none of them were able to get the ball past McKeown.
Up next for Rovers is away trips to Barnet and Altrincham before they entertain AFC Telford United on 23rd of August.
Rovers: Mildenhall, Leadbitter (Gosling – 66), Parkes, McChrystal, Lockyer, Brown, Sinclair Mansell, Monkhouse (Clarke – 73), Brunt (White – 79), Taylor.
Subs: Preston, Clarke, Gosling, White, Harrison.
Grimsby: McKeown, Thomas, Brown, Magnay, Mackreth, Disley, Doig, John-Lewis, Connell (Clay – 87), McLaughlin, Boyce.
Subs: Bignot, Humble, Clay, Winfarrah, Bemrose.