GRIMSBY Town face an FA Trophy replay three days before Christmas after they were held to a draw by Solihull Moors at Blundell Park.
After a promising opening to the game by the Mariners in wet and windy conditions, their visitors snatched the lead through striker Andy Brown on the quarter-hour.
Solihull then looked comfortable for long spells over the rest of the half as they made light of their lower-division status.
But Town continued to create chances and the visitors were indebted to keeper Ben Siegrist for a string of fine saves.
After the break, the Mariners stepped up the tempo and they were finally back on level terms on 66 minutes, when James Alabi scored his first goal for the club.
Both teams then looked for the winning goal that would remove the need for a replay but as the rain got heavier, that goal never came and the two sides will have to do it all again in the West Midlands on Tuesday, December 22.
Town boss Paul Hurst opted to make eight changes to his team for the visit of the National League North promotion contenders, with only James McKeown, Richard Tait and Toto Nsiala remaining from the XI that drew with Shrewsbury in the FA Cup on Monday.
McKeown started behind a back four of Tait, Nsiala, Shaun Pearson and Gregor Robertson, while Alex Jones, Conor Henderson, Scott Brown and Marcus Marshall formed a new-look midfield.
Omar Bogle and Alabi were the strikers, while Jack Mackreth, Craig Clay, Josh Venney, Jon-Paul Pittman and Conor Townsend were all named as substitutes.
Solihull made the journey north having lost for the first time in the league this season last time out, when Boston United claimed a 1-0 win in the West Midlands.
They would look to immediately bounce back and move through to the next round of the Trophy at the expense of the Mariners, who would be among the bookies’ favourites to win the competition.
Town kicked off in front of a very sparse crowd and almost immediately, Henderson let fly with a long-range shot that was blocked at the edge of the penalty area.
The Mariners looked to have created an opportunity two minutes in when Marshall’s ball along the ground sent Alabi away through the middle but the offside flag went up against the Ipswich Town loanee.
Bogle sent a 25-yard effort over the bar two minutes later, with the referee signalling for a corner after ruling it had taken a deflection off a defender. Henderson’s delivery from the left was headed on by Nsiala before being cleared.
Alabi had a shot saved by the feet of visiting keeper Siegrist after linking up with Bogle inside the Solihull box as Town’s dominant start to the game continued, with the away side yet to show any attacking threat as the 10-minute mark passed.
Alabi then won a corner on the right but Henderson’s kick was headed away by defender Gareth Dean.
The visitors created their first chance on 12 minutes after Tait lost possession and Solihull broke down the right. Michael Nottingham crossed for Akwasi Asanti at the near post but he couldn’t divert it into the net and the ball was put out for a corner.
Another shot by Asanti was deflected out for a corner soon afterwards and this time, Solihull made it count. Daryl Knights’ delivery from the right was not dealt with by the Grimsby defence and after it was headed on, BROWN was there to slam the ball home from close range to open the scoring.
Town looked to respond after going behind, with Henderson trying to catch Siegrist off his line from 45 yards on 20 minutes. The Crawley loanee’s shot lacked accuracy though, drifting high and wide.
A foul by Brown gave the visitors a free kick on the halfway line but as Conor Franklin sent the ball towards the penalty area, the offside flag went up and their opportunity to threaten McKeown’s goal was gone.
At the other end, Alabi showed good strength to get onto the ball on the edge of the box and hold it up for Robertson. His cross was then headed back to him but the left-back could not pick out a team-mate at the second attempt.
Solihull used the long throw of Franklin to launch their next attack, although after he hurled the ball into the Town box, nobody could turn it towards goal.
The visitors had grown in confidence since the start of the game and after taking the lead, they looked comfortable and were enjoying longer spells of possession as the half went on.
Town, by contrast, looked disjointed at the half-hour mark and were not getting as many attacking opportunities as they had created in the opening 10 minutes.
Bogle looked to change that when he picked the ball up 25 yards out and drilled a shot but it was held by Siegrist in the Solihull goal.
Alabi was denied by a good save from Siegrist after using his pace to get onto a ball through the middle on 35 minutes, before an even better save saw him divert a shot by Bogle onto the post.
And the keeper was in the thick of the action again seconds later, brilliantly tipping a 25-yard effort by Henderson over his bar for a corner as Town stepped up the pressure in a bid to haul themselves level.
McKeown had to dive to keep out a low shot from the goalscorer Brown, before another cross soon afterwards was headed out for a corner by Nsiala.
Bogle was fouled by Jack Byrne to give the Mariners a free kick midway inside the Solihull half with two minutes to play before the break. Henderson’s delivery from it was good but Dean got to the ball first and cleared it from danger.
One additional minute was signalled at the end of the half and another Town attack saw Alabi get to the byline and pull the ball back across goal, although it was cleared.
A shot from Henderson was pushed clear by Siegrist, before the referee’s whistle brought the half to an end.
After a promising start, it had been a disappointing 45 minutes for the hosts overall, as they went into the dressing rooms a goal behind and with work to do to ensure they remained in the competition.
The Mariners made a double substitution before the restart, with Mackreth and Venney replacing Tait and Jones.
An early corner was not dealt with by the visitors and after Town retained possession, a cross from Mackreth proved just too high for Alabi.
Bogle lifted a shot over the bar on 49 minutes as the home side continued their purposeful start to the half, before Alabi linked up with Mackreth for the winger to fire wide a minute later.
Asanti beat Nsiala as Solihull threatened for the first time in the half on 54 minutes and after the ball broke for Brown, McKeown had to parry his shot away from goal.
A foul by Venney on Knights gave the visitors a free kick inside the Grimsby half but his delivery was headed clear as far as Mackreth, who was fouled.
Town were doing most of the attacking but were not testing keeper Siegrist enough, with Nsiala running into space down the right but crossing straight to the keeper in the home side’s latest forward move.
A side-footed attempt from Marshall was blocked for a corner after a driving run from Venney through the middle on 64 minutes. Henderson’s delivery was headed behind for another flag-kick and this time, the ball went behind off Pearson for a goal kick.
Town finally had their equalising goal two minutes later, when ALABI opened his account for the club. Bogle passed the ball through for his strike-partner and the loanee showed good strength to hold of his man and beat Siegrist with a low shot.
The Mariners were immediately on the attack again as they looked to complete the turnaround, with Bogle sending a low shot just past the far post.
A Grimsby corner was then cleared, before a Mackreth cross to the far post was caught by Siegrist.
A poor challenge on Venney earned Liam Daley a yellow card, before Bogle had a shot blocked for another corner, which was cleared.
Solihull’s main threat was continuing to come from striker Asanti, who had given the Town defenders a tough afternoon throughout.
The visitors replaced Brown with James Armson with 13 minutes to go, with both sides looking to win the game without the need for a replay.
McKeown was almost caught out when a shot from long range came as he was off his line but the keeper managed to recover, running back and pushing the ball away, before gathering it at the second attempt.
Solihull kept attacking and a corner from the left with seven minutes to go had to be dealt with by the Grimsby defence.
Byrne was replaced by Adam Walker for the away side on 85 minutes and two minutes later, they could have had a chance to win it when Asanti met a pass down the left channel but as he cut inside, Nsiala did well to recover and challenge.
At the other end, Henderson’s cross after a short corner had to be punched clear by Siegrist to stop Bogle meeting it with a far-post header.
That proved to be the start of a succession of quickfire corners, with Siegrist doing well to thwart the hosts on each occasion until Mackreth sliced a shot wide.
Three added minutes were signalled and Solihull boss Marcus Bignot used his final substitution in the first of them, sending Junior English on in place of Asanti.
But neither side could force a winner in the additional period, meaning they will meet again to decide who goes through to the second round.
Before then, the Mariners face another replay, in the FA Cup at Shrewsbury on Tuesday, and a league game at home to Dover Athletic on Saturday