IAN Holloway hailed his Grimsby side’s plucky performance at Wanderers – but admits it was a crying shame that fans were not there to see it.

After two weeks in self-isolation and just two days on the training ground, the Mariners ground out a goalless draw at the UniBol to leave Holloway’s former student, Ian Evatt, a frustrated man.

The Whites once again failed to raise their game at home in front of the empty stands but did at least register a first clean sheet of the season. “What can I say? We’ve got a new group, three came this week while I was in lockdown, I couldn’t even meet them. It’s been so surreal,” Holloway said.

“I didn’t know how best we could play, who was fit. I had to run them on Thursday, luckily we were locked down on the right day so I could prepare for two days, rather than Leyton Orient who could only prepare for two hours last Saturday.

“Talk about being behind the black ball, I don’t understand. Now we’ve got to play this Tuesday away to Cheltenham and then next Saturday away to Leyton Orient.

“And I worry this wonderful competition that we play in, and our wonderful supporters who aren’t allowed in a beautiful stadium like this, which has a mist machine when we walked in, why can’t we get people in a ground as beautiful as this?

“Home supporters only, I’ve got no problem with that, because the atmosphere is awful.

“I’m very worried about football, but as a performance that’s as good as I’ve ever had, as well as the three points away at Mansfield last season in my first game when we went down to 10 men really early in the game.

“I’m so proud of them. What can I say? In the end we could have nicked it.”

Grimsby were on the ropes in the first half, with Wanderers sticking to Evatt’s pre-match game-plan to move their opponents around the pitch and wear them down.

A tactical shift from Holloway after the break swung the game back on an even keel, and Bolton struggled to break through from there on in.

“At half time I thought our legs were coming off, I had to change the shape and go five across midfield because they were stretching us wide,” he said.

“Luckily I’ve seen a few games in my life and that change helped us and we almost nicked it at the end because they were trying to nick it, like you should do, and like I taught Mr Evatt: ‘you should always try and win a game.

“I’m very proud of him, it was nice to see some of my old boys, Matt Gilks, Alex Baptiste, a warrior who is still going, Nathan Delfouneso, and obviously Mr Evatt.

“What a wonderful opportunity he’s got at this fantastic football club, should it ever really be in this situation? No, but good luck to him.

“And I’ve never been prouder of a team than I am of mine right now.”