TOWN missed the chance to close the five-point gap on League I pacesetters Charlton and Leeds as they were blanked by Brentford.
After Leeds were held goalless by Southend on Friday, leaders Charlton could only draw 1-1 at home to Southampton on Saturday.
But it was Bristol Rovers who were the beneficiaries as their 1-0 home win over Oldham put them third at Town’s expense.
What a shame that after keeping a clean sheet for the first time in 10 matches this season, the country’s top scorers going into the game for once failed to find the net.
There were opportunities, but it was hard to begrudge battling Brentford a point, which could have become three had it not been for an unlikely miss by Cleveland Taylor.
The goal was gaping when the former Carlisle man met Steve Kabba’s 73rd-minute cross, but somehow, and to the great relief of home fans in a 12,020 crowd, he sidefooted wide.
Defeat would have been harsh on Town, who haven’t featured in a goalless draw since Yeovil visited last October.
But such has been the form and freescoring power on show this term – especially at the Galpharm – Saturday’s outcome was highly disappointing.
Things began brightly enough, as Jordan Rhodes, playing against the side for whom he shone on loan last season, dispossessed centre-back Alan Bennett down the right in the eighth-minute.
His cross towards Gary Roberts was cleared, but only as far as Anthony Kay, who was lurking on the edge of the area and brought a fine save from Lewis Price with a dipping volley.
But apart from another Kay shot, this time in the 44th minute, which was awkward but safely collected by the visiting keeper, that was as good as it got for Town in a disjointed first half.
Brentford didn’t fare much better, with a 44th-minute attack in which Charlie MacDonald had a shot blocked by Lee Peltier before ex-Sheffield United striker Kabba was foiled by Peter Clarke’s block tackle, the only incidents to unduly worry the home supporters.
There was more tempo to the second half, which Town started strongly with three chances in as many minutes.
First Theo Robinson ran onto a Roberts pass and got goalside of centre-back Mark Phillips but failed to muster enough power in his shot at Price.
Then Danny Drinkwater’s neat pass freed Anthony Pilkington, whose cross was met by Roberts, only for his sidefoot lob to be blocked.
And Town fans were out of their seats when Rhodes connected with another Pilkington cross, only to sit down again in frustration as the header flew narrowly over.
Alex Smithies, who looked solid throughout, did well to tip away MacDonald’s floater from the left in the 54th minute.
And soon after Drinkwater, who was Town’s liveliest outfield player, stung Price’s fingers with a deceptively powerful long-range effort.
There was further huffing and puffing from both sides, but only two near things, first from Taylor, then Lee Novak.Related content
Off the bench for Robinson with 20 minutes remaining, the Town substitute shot goalwards from Roberts’ 85th-minute cross, only for Phillips to block on the line.
Town at least maintained their unbeaten home record, and can still boast the ‘golden’ average of two points per game.
But while pleased by the clean sheet, boss Clark will be looking for more sharpness in front of the sticks when Town tackle another of the capital’s League I quartet, Millwall, at the New Den on Saturday.