GRIMSBY Town were forced to settle for a point as Crawley Town came from behind to claim a share of the spoils at Blundell Park.
The Mariners dominated for much of the first half and took the lead through Sam Jones, although the visitors equalised on the stroke of half-time when James Collins pounced from close range after a free kick was saved.
After the break, Town had chances to reclaim their advantage but as the half went on, it was Crawley who looked the more likely of the two to win the game and they also had opportunities to earn all three points.
They did not take them though, as the hosts made sure they took something from the game despite going down to 10 men when Danny Collins was sent off for two bookable offences.
Four changes were made to the Town starting XI after Tuesday’s 4-0 loss at Portsmouth, with Craig Disley,
Brandon Comley, Dominic Vose and Calum Dyson coming in as Ben Davies, Scott Vernon, Akwasi Asante and Luke Maxwell made way.
James McKeown started in goal, with Zak Mills, Shaun Pearson, Collins and Danny Andrew forming the defence.
Jamey Osborne, Disley, Comley and Vose were the midfielders, with Dyson linking up with Jones in attack.
Davies, Vernon, Asante and Maxwell were all named on the bench, along with Tom Bolarinwa, Andrew Boyce and Chris Clements.
Crawley made the journey north without a win in their last five games and having won only two of their last 12, with their latest result being a 3-0 defeat by Crewe in midweek.
Head coach Dermot Drummy would look to strikers Rhys Murphy and James Collins to provide the firepower to earn a more positive result for the Sussex side this time around.
The first attack of note came within the opening two minutes, with Osborne heading wide from a cross by Andrew on the Town left.
Crawley’s response saw a cross from Josh Payne lead to uncertainty in the Mariners defence, with Mills eventually clearing the ball for a throw-in.
A foul by Dyson on the halfway line gave the visitors another early opportunity to get the ball into the danger zone but the Everton loanee headed the free kick clear.
A good chance then came for the away side when Enzio Bolderwijn got down the right and crossed for Collins, whose header hit the post and bounced to safety.
Jones did well to work his way into the Crawley penalty area from the right on 11 minutes but he was unable to create a goalscoring opportunity as he was crowded out by defenders and the ball was cleared.
Soon afterwards, Vose looked for the run of Dyson with a chipped ball from the halfway line but the pass was just ahead of the striker and the ball went through to visiting keeper Glen Morris.
A Town free kick from midway inside the Crawley half on 16 minutes was driven into the box by Andrew and after defender Josh Yorworth headed it up into the air, the ball fell for Comley but after he took a touch, it was shepherded out for a goal kick.
The game had been stop-start so far and another free kick came when Mills fouled Rhys Murphy, although it came to nothing.
Grimsby then went on the attack and a nice build-up led to Jones getting the ball and setting off on a promising run through the middle, although he was eventually stopped before he could shoot.
A Town corner came on 20 minutes and after it was played short to Comley, a low shot from Mills was blocked.
The Mariners won another corner on the opposite flank a minute later and after another short pass from it, Vose was fouled but Andrew’s resulting free kick was cleared at the near post.
Town were getting on top and they took a deserved lead on 22 minutes. A good passage of possession led to a cross from the right and after the loose ball fell for JONES, he rifled a shot past Morris from 12 yards.
Crawley attacks had been few and far between since the opening five minutes, with an effort fired high and wide by Murphy being the only other meaningful attempt on goal by them before the 25-minute mark.
But the visitors did get an opportunity to threaten when Bolderwijn was bundled over on the edge of the box after Disley had lost possession in midfield. Payne’s free kick was headed away by Mills, who was fouled in the process.
Town were playing some good football and a move involving Vose and Dyson led to Osborne getting the ball on the right but his cross did not find a man in black and white.
Dyson then did well to keep the ball in and send over a low cross from the right just after the half-hour but Osborne was unable to get enough on it to turn it towards goal.
Collins had to head clear from a Lewis Young cross from the right on 34 minutes, before McKeown was called into serious action for the first time, blocking a shot by midfielder Jimmy Smith.
Osborne sent a low shot wide of the far post from the right side of the penalty area, then a better spell from
Crawley saw them have much more of the ball in the opposition half, albeit without causing a serious threat to the Town goal.
But that was to change as the game moved into one added minute, when the visitors grabbed what had seemed like an unlikely equaliser. A corner from the right was cleared but a foul by Disley brought about a free kick on the edge of the Town box and after Murphy’s shot was clawed away by McKeown, COLLINS was on hand to get to the rebound first and finish from close range.
It was a cruel end to the half for the Mariners, who had dominated for the majority of the 45 minutes and had taken the lead, only to see it disappear in the closing stages as the teams headed into the dressing rooms all-square.
No changes were made before the restart and an early free kick for the visitors led to Collins heading the ball off Yorworth for a goal kick.
Collins was shown the first yellow card of the game for a late challenge on Smith on 49 minutes but the resulting free kick from Payne went all the way through for a goal kick.
A corner then came at the other end but Vose’s ball from the right was cleared.
A foul on Osborne gave the Mariners a free kick right of centre soon afterwards but Vose caused no problems for keeper Morris or his defence as he shot well over the bar.
Another free kick for a foul on Vose led to yet another when Mills was brought down near the right corner flag. Andrew sent it towards the far post but Morris punched clear and then did the same again when Disley lifted the ball back into the box.
Town had dominated the game since the restart and an Andrew throw-in was headed on by Pearson before the ball was cleared for a corner, which came to nothing as a short corner routine eventually led to Comley’s through-ball rolling away for a goal kick.
Crawley made the first substitution of the game on 62 minutes, with Josh Lelan replacing Andre Blackman.
The best chance of the half so far came soon afterwards, when Jones burst through the middle and got into the box but when the time came to shoot, the striker slipped and the ball went well wide of Morris’ target.
Another opportunity for Jones to shoot came on 65 minutes, when a free kick from halfway was headed down by Dyson for his strike partner, who fired a first-time effort wide.
A low cross from Mills was cleared at the near post, before an excellent pass from Kaby Djao spotted the run of Boldewijn, although his heavy first touch sent the ball through to McKeown.
A double substitution by the Mariners saw Asante replace Dyson and Bolarinwa come on for Comley. That saw Osborne move from the right to play alongside Disley in central midfield as Bolarinwa slotted in on the wing.
The hosts almost edged back ahead on 74 minutes when a cross from Bolarinwa was touched on by Jones and the ball fell for Asante at the far post, although he couldn’t get enough power on it to beat Morris.
A foul by Mills on Murphy gave Crawley a free kick inside the Town half but Payne’s delivery was headed clear by Disley.
A cross from Young had to be headed out for a corner by Pearson with 12 minutes to go as the visitors began to look more threatening but as the ball came in from the flag, the referee spotted a foul on Pearson.
A foul on Asante then gave the Mariners a free kick at the other end, with Payne shown the yellow card for kicking the ball away. Vernon replaced Disley before the kick was taken by Jones, whose low shot hit the Crawley wall.
Town were then reduced to 10 men after Collins, who had already been booked, pulled Boldewijn down on the edge of the box and was shown a second yellow card. Payne’s free kick was poor, with the ball sailing over the bar.
Pearson was then booked for a foul near the centre circle but again, the resulting free kick caused no problems as it was caught by McKeown.
The away side then missed a great chance to take the lead for the first time in the game with six minutes to go, as Boldewijn squared for Smith near the penalty spot but the midfielder could only fire over the bar.
A foul on Asante gave Town a free kick on the right with three minutes left to play but Andrew’s ball to the far post was pushed clear by keeper Morris.
Crawley were looking the more likely to win the game though, pouring forward as the clock ticked down and winning a corner on the right, which was headed clear.
Smith had another good chance to win it for the away side in the last minute of the 90, picking up a loose ball and turning but again shooting over the bar.
Former Town loanee Matt Harrold replaced Djalo in the visitors’ attack as the game moved into stoppage time.
A free kick was pumped into the box by Andrew but it was to no avail and with no further chances created by either side, the match ended level.
Town are back on the road next Saturday, when they head to Accrington Stanley.