A LATE Shaun Pearson header earned Grimsby Town a point against Southport at Haig Avenue.
The Mariners had the lead at the halfway stage through Jordan Chapell’s first goal for the club and at that point, they looked to be on-course for a comfortable victory.
But the hosts turned things around within seven minutes after half-time, as Louis Almond equalised before Luke Foster gave them the lead.
The visitors had the final say though, with Pearson’s goal six minutes from the end ensuring they did not record consecutive defeats.
Six changes were made to the Town side after last week’s home loss to Wrexham ended the club’s automatic promotion hopes.
Daniel Parslow replaced the injured Gregor Robertson, with Carl Magnay moving across to left-back as Parslow slotted in on the right.
The other alterations saw Josh Gowling, Chapell, Craig Clay, Paddy McLaughlin and Jon-Paul Pittman come into the team, with Toto Nsiala, Jack Mackreth, Craig Disley, Nathan Arnold and Lenell John-Lewis making way.
James McKeown started in goal, with Pearson partnering Gowling in the centre of defence as Parslow and Magnay made up the back four.
Chapell started on the right wing, with Scott Brown and Clay lining up in the middle of midfield and McLaughlin on the left.
Pittman was partnered in attack by Ollie Palmer, while John-Lewis, Mackreth and Arnold were joined on the bench by Ross Hannah and Paul Bignot.
Southport also came into the game with a much-changed side, largely due to injuries and suspensions, with former Town striker Richard Brodie among those missing out through being banned.
The Sandgrounders’ problems meant they were only able to name three substitutes, one of whom was goalkeeper Sebastian Usai.
The game started slowly, with no chances created by either side in a low-key opening 10 minutes.
Almond tried a shot for Southport on 11 minutes but it was blocked by one of his own men before Pearson stepped in to clear. The hosts kept possession though and eventually forced the game’s first corner, which was cleared.
Paul Rutherford was then given an opportunity to shoot after a mistake by Magnay but the home attacker could not punish the error as his effort went straight at McKeown.
A shot from Palmer at the other end was saved by Southport keeper Tony Thompson, before a foul by Chapell give the hosts a free kick near the halfway line, which was headed away by Pearson.
Another free kick came soon afterwards, given for a foul by Clay. This time, Will Beesley curled the ball straight through to McKeown.
A back-heel by Palmer found his strike-partner Pittman but the ball fell awkwardly for him and he clipped his shot over the bar.
Parslow was shown the first yellow card of the game on 19 minutes and the resulting free kick led to a corner, which the hosts could not cause any problems from.
A cross from Almond was headed away by Pearson as Southport continued to ask the questions, before Charlie Joyce hit a dipping shot that missed the target.
But when the opening goal came on 24 minutes, it was the Mariners who took the lead. After a throw-in, Brown’s ball into the box found CHAPELL, who managed to apply the finish to beat Thompson and find the net.
Town were galvanised by the goal and they almost doubled their advantage when a cross from Parslow eventually fell for McLaughlin but his shot hit the keeper.
A Town corner from McLaughlin on the half-hour was claimed by Thompson, who looked to quickly launch a home attack but could only send the ball all the way through to his opposite number McKeown.
Palmer volleyed over the bar on 35 minutes, before Pearson had to head a cross from Connor McCarthy clear at the other end after Rutherford had beaten McLaughlin.
McKeown was ruled to have got a touch to a bouncing shot to send it over the bar for a Southport corner four minutes later but the flag-kick was cleared by Clay.
The Town keeper was then called into action again to stop the ball getting to Almond, before another home corner on 43 minutes again caused no threat as it was dealt with by Parslow.
Brown’s cross-field ball a minute later found Chapell but as he looked to cut inside, the winger slipped and the chance was gone.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and with no further opportunities for either side, Grimsby’s one-goal lead remained intact at the interval.
It was not to last for much longer though, as Southport equalised within a minute of the restart. The Mariners lost the ball on the right and ALMOND picked it up, advanced and curled a shot beyond McKeown and into the net for 1-1.
The hosts then went in search of what had seemed an unlikely lead and Beesley hit a shot that McKeown had to tip behind for a corner on 49 minutes.
Magnay conceded another corner two minutes later but Almond’s ball was cleared by Clay, who went on to give a free kick away with a foul on 53 minutes. From it, the home turnaround was complete as Almond’s high delivery was missed by McKeown and the loose ball fell for FOSTER to slam home.
Town were now faced with the unlikely scenario of having to come from behind and they had a chance to do that through Pittman on 62 minutes but he could not beat keeper Thompson with his shot.
Beesley escaped a booking for bringing Chapell down three minutes later but the Mariners could not make anything of the free kick, with Palmer heading at Thompson after McLaughlin’s short ball was put into the box by Brown.
Pearson was shown a yellow card for a foul soon afterwards and the resulting free kick initially looked to have caused a problem as McKeown failed to collect it, before doing so at the second attempt.
Another free kick glanced off Gowling’s head for a corner and after it was half-cleared by Chapell, Almond sent a shot well off-target.
Mackreth replaced McLaughlin and Palmer made way for Hannah as Town looked for something different in a bid to get back into the game.
Town had a penalty claim on 77 minutes when Chapell looked to be pulled down by Matthew Challoner but referee Richard Wigglesworth gave the decision the other way and signalled for a Southport free kick.
Joyce was booked after the referee ruled he did pull Chapell down on 80 minutes to give Grimsby a free kick just outside the box. Chapell’s delivery was cleared but Town kept possession until a ball chipped into the box by Brown was caught by Thompson.
The Mariners were now the team doing most of the attacking and they managed to haul themselves level with six minutes to go. A corner from Hannah on the right was met by PEARSON, who powered a header into the net.
Bignot replaced Parslow soon after the goal, with Micah Evans coming on for Almond for the hosts.
Another away penalty claim came for an alleged handball by Joe Connor but the referee waved play on and Brown hit a shot that missed the target.
The Mariners were now looking for a winner but when they earned a free kick in a promising position, Magnay could not make it count.
Four added minutes were signalled and with no further chances for either side, the game finished level.
Town had escaped after looking like they could be about to slip to a second consecutive defeat but the point ends any lingering hopes Eastleigh may have had of overhauling the Mariners on goal difference for third place.
Grimsby finish their regular season at home to Aldershot next Saturday.