GRIMSBY Town lost ground on their play-off rivals as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Hereford United at Blundell Park.
Ross Hannah marked his return to the starting-line up with the opening goal, firing home from the penalty spot after Lenell John-Lewis was brought down inside the box.
But the home side’s lead was to last just six minutes, as defender Rodney McDonald equalised with a header from a free kick.
New loan signing Andrew Boyce came straight into the Town XI at centre-back in place of the injured Chris Doig.
The Scunthorpe defender’s inclusion was one of two alterations to the team that drew 1-1 at Macclesfield on Saturday, as Hannah was preferred to Connor Jennings in attack
James McKeown began in goal, with Paul Bignot, Shaun Pearson, Boyce and Aswad Thomas making up the defence.
Craig Disley, AndI Thanoj, Scott Kerr and Alex Rodman were the midfielders, with Hannah alongside John-Lewis up front.
Jennings was named on the bench, along with Sam Hatton, Andy Cook, Scott Neilson and Paddy McLaughlin.
Hereford named former Town midfielder Frankie Artus in their starting line-up, while strikers Dan walker and Chris Sharp would be looking to find the net and earn the points to take back to Herefordshire.
Grimsby kicked off and looked to have worked an opening down the left through Thomas but the left-back was adjudged to have fouled Danny Leadbitter as he attempted to burst into the penalty area.
McKeown had to race off his line to beat Walker to a through-ball on four minutes, before a quick break by the visitors three minutes later ended with an offside decision in favour of the Mariners.
The first corner of the game went to Hereford on 11 minutes but the delivery was headed away by Disley at the near post.
Town’s next attack saw Rodman run down the right and put a low cross in, which was dummied by Hannah but not picked up by John-Lewis.
The first shot on target came soon afterwards, when John-Lewis hit an effort from 18 yards that proved comfortable for keeper Daniel Lloyd-Weston.
A better chance came along on 16 minutes, when John-Lewis ran onto a through-ball and advanced into the box before going down under a challenge. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and HANNAH stepped up to rifle home and open the scoring from 12 yards.
Disley was spoken to by the referee after a foul on Leadbitter close to the edge of his own box six minutes later and from the resulting free kick, the visitors were level. Artus sent an accurate delivery towards the far post and defender McDONALD met it to power a header past McKeown.
Jon Brown replaced Leadbitter, who was not fit to continue after the challenge with the Town skipper.
After losing their lead, the hosts aimed to grab it straight back when they won a free kick on the left but Kerr could not pick out a team-mate from it and the ball went out for a goal kick at the far post.
Town were controlling possession at the half-hour mark but were struggling to pose an attacking threat, with much of the game being played in their own half or midfield areas.
Artus drilled a long-range shot across McKeown’s goal and out for a goal kick as Hereford launched a rare attack on 34 minutes.
Genuine chances had been few and far between as both teams were unable to put their stamp on the game, with neither goalkeeper called into action except to pick the ball out of their net once each.
Disley was unable to turn the ball goal wards after a shot from Thanoj on the edge of the box was blocked nine minutes before the break.
Left-back Chris Bush then let fly from 35 yards and this time, McKeown had to get a fingertip to it to be sure the only damage would be a Hereford corner. From it, Rodman brought the ball clear and set off on a run that took him into the visitors’ box before it was cleared for a throw.
That seemed to galvanise Town, as soon afterwards, Thanoj picked Thomas out on the left and he sent a good cross over that had to be put behind for a corner, which led to Pearson heading wide.
A further corner came on 41 minutes and it quickly led to another, as Kerr’s delivery was put behind by Lloyd-Weston. This time, the keeper caught the ball comfortably.
Hereford began to see more of the ball as half-time approached and they displayed some neat build-up play without ever really troubling the Grimsby defence.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the half and a chance to get the ball into the box came when Disley was fouled just inside the Hereford half. Kerr’s delivery was retrieved by John-Lewis, before the striker had a shot blocked after a cross from Rodman on the right.
That proved to be the last opportunity of the half, meaning the scores remained level at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and Hereford opened brightly winning an early corner which was cleared.
A foul on Hannah brought the game’s first yellow card for Bush two minutes in but Thanoj hit the defensive wall with his free kick, before hammering a follow-up shot over the bar.
A period of Town pressure then saw Rodman embark on a solo run that took him across the pitch, before Thomas burst into the box from the left but hit his cross straight to Lloyd-Weston.
A full-blooded challenge by John-Lewis won the ball midway inside the Hereford half on 51 minutes and the resulting move led to Thanoj trying a shot from the edge of the box but the keeper reached up to claim the catch.
After that, the game appeared to settle down and go back to a similar tempo to that of most of the first half.
Town boss Paul Hurst looked to change that by introducing Neilson in place of Disley on 64 minutes.
Thanoj volleyed over the bar from a tight angle after a looping cross from Rodman was headed back across goal, as the Mariners looked to reclaim the advantage.
Then, a long kick forward from McKeown was flicked on but Lloyd-Weston was alert to the danger and beat both Hannah and John-Lewis to the ball.
Bush was booked for a foul on Rodman on the Town right but the referee spotted an infringement as Hannah sent the set piece towards the far post and blew for a Hereford free kick.
That was Hannah’s last involvement as he was replaced by Jennings for the last 17 minutes of the game.
A Grimsby corner came soon afterwards but after the initial kick was half-cleared, the return ball into the box was glanced wide by Jennings.
Town seemed to be getting closer though and the crowd came to life when Rodman set off on another run and worked his way to the edge of the penalty area before drilling a shot that shaved the post.
Sam Smith came on in place of Sharp for Hereford with 10 minutes to go and Cook replaced John-Lewis for the hosts at the same time.
Good skill in midfield by Thanoj saw him find Neilson on the left but when the winger returned the ball, the Albanian under-21 international could only side-foot over the bar.
Midfielder Jamie Edge volleyed well off-target for the away side with three minutes left, before Jennings went down inside the box but the referee waved away the penalty claims of the Scunthorpe loanee and the fans in the Pontoon Stand.
A Neilson cross was headed over the bar by Pearson as the game moved into three added minutes, with Grimsby still pushing for a winner.
The visitors then had a chance to claim an unlikely three points with a quick break but the only damage was a corner, which was caught by McKeown.
A brilliant chance for Town to grab that elusive winner came when a brilliant cross from Thomas on the left was met by Cook but he could not keep his header down and could only watch the ball clear the crossbar.
That proved to be the last chance of the game and the Mariners would no doubt see the draw as an opportunity missed to close the gap to the division’s top five.
Town are next in action when they entertain Wrexham on Saturday.