Marine were held to a 0-0 stalemate away at Kidsgrove Athletic, as defender Dean Winnard was given his marching orders inside the first two minutes.
Neil Young set his side up in a 5-2-1-2 formation, with new signing Olly Muir joining Winnard and Mark Howarth in defence. Lewis Reilly returned to the starting 11, as did Josh Solomon-Davies, replacing the injured Kyle Hayde.
The Mariners made a nightmare start to the match, after Winnard clashed with a Grove defender during a set piece and then had a coming together with Danny Cocks, leaving referee Thomas Swift with no choice but to show Winnard the red card.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Marine looked the more dangerous side, enjoying the lion’s share of possession. The midfield pairing of James Barrigan and Alex Doyle controlled the centre of the pitch well and looked to drive the team forward.
Doyle had one of the best chances of the match after the ball was cut back to the number eight, but his effort was blocked on the line.
Solomon-Davies provided attacking width down the Marine right wing, managing to beat players and deliver dangerous crosses from the by-line. Unfortunately, they came to nothing.
Max McCarthy had the most clear-cut chance of the first half, but he was denied one-on-one by Bayleigh Passant who made an excellent stop to keep the match goalless.
Into the second half, major attempts on goal were hard to come by. Neil Kengni’s strike from the edge of the box flashed across the face of goal, but Kidsgrove ‘keeper Ryan Brown watched the ball fly wide.
Kengni continued to look the liveliest in attack for Marine as he raced through on goal, but Grove defenders were able to catch up to the Mariners’ top goal scorer as he shifted the ball back on to his favoured left foot, clearing the danger
Doyle went down in the 77th minute holding his hamstring and was replaced by James Devine. In his post-match interview, Neil Young said that it does not look as serious as first suspected, and the change was precautionary.
There was a hearts-in-mouths moment for Marine supporters five minutes later when Anthony Malbon reacted quickest inside the Mariners’ six-yard box, but his finish was chalked off due to the linesman’s flag.
The referee’s final whistle brought an end to a competitive encounter, which Marine had played with 10 men since the second minute.
At the top of the table now sits three sides on 65 points, as Warrington Rylands’ win saw them leapfrog Workington at the top.
Next up for Marine is the visit of 1874 Northwich in two weeks’ time, as the Mariners look to continue their unbeaten run.
Marine: Passant, Solomon-Davies, White, Howarth, Muir, Winnard, Barrigan (c), Doyle (Devine 77), Reilly (Watkinson 69), Wignall (Irwin 69), Kengni.