CLEETHORPES is never going to rival Paris, Venice or the Maldives as a romantic getaway.

But it was where Gary Bowyer whisked City away for their “second date”.

There were memories of past associations to stir the memory – an old flame in James Hanson and a brief encounter that ended in a messy break-up with Luke Hendrie.

Yet League Two continues to play hard to get.

Bowyer had compared the season curtain-raiser with Cambridge to an opening “date”, talking of the promise of more to come – even if the result disappointed many.

He had seen enough himself to anticipate taking the relationship with City’s new surroundings a stage further and proved it was more than just a dalliance with 4-3-3 by sticking with the identical starting line-up.

Unfortunately, like employing the same chat-up lines once again, the element of surprise was not there and the follow-up encounter ended with the same sense of discomfort.

Decked out in their day-glo all orange third kit, you couldn’t miss City.

But there was that overwhelming feeling that they continue to miss something.

For many, that is the presence of Sean Scannell running down the wing.

The near-1,800 sold-out away end sung those words with gusto whenever he appeared – but for the first hour those moments were restricted to warm-up jogs up and down the touchline with the other substitutes.

Anyone flicking round the Sky Sports channels the previous night might have stumbled across the highlights of City’s Wembley win over Northampton six years ago.

Hanson was there, of course, bossing the air but equally the sight of Kyel Reid whipping in crosses from one side and Garry Thompson from the other was sure to stir Bantam blood.

Fast forward six years and the sight of the club’s senior winger once again confined to bench duty until the second half frustrated the bulk of that travelling support.

Grimsby were equally surprised – and no doubt delighted – to see that Scannell’s name was missing from the first XI. They had planned for his threat all week with Hendrie primed with the job of trying to shackle him.

Instead, they were confronted by the narrower three-man frontline that had fired a blank against Cambridge with Eoin Doyle once more working as the number 10 behind Clayton Donaldson and James Vaughan.

Bowyer had not been tempted to change the system – and claimed afterwards that City’s early joy was down to the home side struggling to get to grips with it.

Things might have looked brighter had referee Ben Toner taken a tougher stance with Ludvig Ohman just two minutes in when the Swede pulled back Donaldson when clean through.

The striker still had a fair distance to go to goal, which probably reduced Ohman’s punishment from red card to yellow, but Bowyer queried with some justification whether the verdict would have been as lenient further into the contest.

But City’s initial promise faded and the first half degenerated into an unappetising spectacle, not helped by a gusty, swirling wind that made any high ball a challenge to judge.

The conditions made it tough for the visitors to get down and play with the possession-based game that Bowyer wants.

Too often the passing was side to side with no real purpose; the lack of width exposed with the number of hopeful – and frequently misplaced - balls into the channels.

Grimsby were as direct as City had prepared for. Hit it long, throw it long – just get it long to Hanson while others fed off the scraps around him.

It was an early lesson about what League Two is really like; uncompromising, ugly and unrelenting on those who want to take an extra touch.

Centre halves Ben Richards-Everton and Anthony O’Connor were in full-on mode from the start. O’Connor really shone as he continues to salvage a reputation torn by the events of last season.

Having blocked a goal-bound drive from Ahkeem Rose, he showed great strength to shoulder Matt Green off the ball when Harry Clifton looked to play the striker through one-on-one with Richard O’Donnell.

The keeper pawed away an in-swinging free-kick from Jake Hessenthaler as Grimsby’s frenetic approach threatened a reward.

But it was City who struck the first blow eight minutes into the second half as the away end erupted.

Adam Henley, who did not particularly convince at left back, rolled a pass to Jordan Gibson who put a cross right on the button for Vaughan to bury past James McKeown.

The captain launched into a trademark kung-fu kick at the corner flag as bedlam broke out a few yards away. City’s season, it appeared, was off and running.

But rather than upping a gear after their first goal, the visitors immediately found themselves pegged back.

By the time Scannell had made his popular arrival on 62 minutes, City had already enjoyed one life as Moses Ogbu was flagged for offside heading in the rebound after Clifton lobbed against the bar.

O’Donnell did well to bat away a Green effort but City made the criminal mistake of leaving Hanson unguarded from the resulting corner.

Inevitably, Hessenthaler made a beeline for the big man’s head and a deflection off Henley wrong-footed O’Donnell.

Hanson did celebrate with a punch of the air towards the home fans but it was respectfully muted.

As Grimsby sensed blood, the Bantams enjoyed another slice of fortune when a Harry Davis header that was clearly going in cannoned off his team-mate Elliott Whitehouse right in front of goal.

City’s switch to 4-4-2 had injected more purpose into their attacking play and they then had two chances of their own to grab a winner – with Scannell involved in both.

Firstly, he arrived to meet Donaldson’s cross only to be denied by McKeown’s agile block by the post and then returned the compliment by drilling in a low ball which appeared to hit the centre forward’s standing leg as he failed to connect from close range.

So, for the first time in four seasons, City have not won in the opening two games. But the last occasion that happened they went on to make the play-offs.

“We’ve learned a lot about our boys and they’ve learned about this league,” said Bowyer. “They knew what to expect.

"It’s different to League One and we’ve got to make sure we build on this.”