AKWASI Asante’s first goal for Grimsby Town proved not to be enough to give them an away victory against Accrington Stanley at the Wham Stadium.
In a scrappy game of few real opportunities until the closing stages, the substitute struck with 20 minutes to go to put the Mariners ahead and seemingly on their way to three points and a possible route back into the play-off race.
But Stanley had other ideas and they were back on level terms with two minutes to go when Shay McCartan scored from a free kick.
Both sides attacked in search of a late winner but despite chances at both ends over the course of seven minutes of added time, that goal was not to come and the teams were forced to settle for a point apiece.
Four changes were made to the Grimsby side following last week’s home draw with Crawley Town, with Danny Collins suspended after being sent off in that game.
Gavin Gunning made a return after suffering from concussion to replace him, with Andrew Boyce, Chris Clements and Vernon the others to come into the starting XI as Shaun Pearson, Brandon Comley and Calum Dyson dropped out.
James McKeown began in goal, with Zak Mills, Boyce, Gunning and Danny Andrew forming the defence.
Jamey Osborne, Craig Disley, Clements and Dominic Vose were the midfielders, with Sam Jones joining Vernon in attack.
Pearson, Comley and Dyson were all named on the bench, along with Dan Jones, Tom Bolarinwa, Asante and Luke Maxwell.
Accrington came into the game on a good run of form which had lifted them to 14th in the League Two table, one place below the Mariners.
Top scorer Billy Kee would be looking to add to his 13 goals so far this season for John Coleman’s side, with McCartan likely to be another major threat to the Mariners’ defence.
Town put together a spell of possession in the early stages but Accrington almost had an opportunity when Sean McConville looked for Kee, although Vose got back and put an end to the danger.
More good play by the visitors led to Andrew crossing on eight minutes but the ball only found McConville, who cleared.
At the other end, Jordan Clark’s pace took him past Boyce but his cross was claimed by McKeown.
A long throw from Mills on 15 minutes broke for Vose on the edge of the box and his shot was deflected out for the game’s first corner. Vose’s ball was met by Boyce, who chased his own header wide and got a cross in that caused no danger for the hosts.
A shot by McCartan was then cleared by Mills, before good play by the home side saw them win a corner when a cross was cleared by Mills. The flag-kick was headed away by Gunning and a follow-up shot then flew over the bar.
McCartan stayed onside to go clear down the right on 23 minutes but his cross was cleared by Mills.
Accrington won a corner three minutes later and after the delivery from it was not fully cleared, the ball dropped for Matty Pearson to smash a half-volley just off-target.
A corner at the other end just after the half-hour was claimed by home keeper Aaron Chapman as the Mariners looked to swing the momentum their way after a cagey opening 30 minutes.
Town won a free kick inside the Accrington half with 34 minutes on the clock but Clement’s ball from a central position beat everybody and went out for a goal kick.
At the other end, Noor Hussin hit the roof of the stand with a shot from 25 yards, before McKeown had to come out and beat McCartan to the ball to make a clearance.
Right-back Harvey Rodgers tried a shot from distance after the ball broke to him on 37 minutes and it turned out to be the closest either side had been to an opening goal so far as only the post stopped the Mariners from going behind.
Town then created a chance of their own when Vose cut in and shot, with keeper Chapman pushing the ball away for a corner, which was cleared.
More opportunities were starting to come now and Accrington were the next to create one when Janoi Donacien sent the ball across the six-yard line, although nobody could get on the end of it and it went all the way across for a throw-in.
A long throw from Mills was headed away, before another Grimsby throw-in led to a corner, which was also headed clear. Town kept possession but Andrew’s cross was caught by Chapman.
One additional minute was played at the end of the half and with no further chances created by either side, the game remained goalless at the break.
No changes were made before the restart and Town won an early corner when a curling cross from Jones was touched behind. The delivery from the flag was caught by the keeper.
At the other end, a cross from Pearson was flicked away by Clements, then half-cleared by Andrew. The hosts kept possession and they won a corner when a shot by Clark was blocked by Osborne, with the ball from the flag being headed away.
McKeown got down well to make a save after McCartan went past Gunning and shot, before a shot from Mills was blocked at the other end.
A stoppage then came when Vernon was sent crashing into the advertising boards by a challenge from Rodgers and after getting treatment, the striker had to be replaced, with Asante coming on.
A good chance for the home side came when a sliced shot by Pearson looped away from McKeown and hit the post but McCartan could not make the rebound count as he found the side-netting.
A header from defender Omar Beckles back to his own keeper then almost caused a problem when the ball bounced over the giant Chapman, although the stopper managed to chase it back and scoop it away.
The game had been scrappy throughout, with few clear-cut chances created by either side.
But when the opening goal finally came on 70 minutes, it was the Mariners who took the lead when ASANTE cut in and fired a shot which beat Chapman at his near post to make it 1-0.
Town went in search of a second goal straight away and Jones looked to have an opening when he set off on a run to the edge of the box but was denied by Donacien.
At the other end, a foul by Gunning gave Accrington a free kick but defender Mark Hughes could not make it count.
Osborne was replaced by Bolarinwa with 15 minutes to go and the substitute was involved almost immediately, racing through but seeing the ball cleared for a throw-in.
Town had been on top since the goal, with Accrington restricted to a wild shot by Hussin which sailed well over the bar.
Jon Edwards replaced Donacien for the home side before Clark won a corner on the right. McConville’s delivery was cleared.
A cross from Clarke then went all the way through for Pearson to cross from the opposite flank but Pearson’s header went over the bar.
Gunning was shown a yellow card just before he was replaced by Pearson with four minutes left to play.
An Accrington corner was headed away by Boyce but the hosts kept possession and eventually won a free kick in a dangerous position for a foul by Mills. And from it, McCARTAN stepped up to beat McKeown and make it 1-1.
Town went on the attack and Jones, Pearson and Asante all combined inside the box but none could force the ball past Chapman.
Seven minutes of added time were signalled and Accrington had an opportunity to win it with a goalmouth scramble that ended with Andrew clearing the ball.
Asante saw a shot saved by the keeper at the other end as both sides looked for a late winner.
Vose then called Chapman into action, before a strike by McConville was saved by McKeown.
In the end, neither side could force a winner before the referee’s full-time whistle, meaning the game ended all-square and Town were forced to settle for a second consecutive draw.
The Mariners are next in action on Saturday, when league leaders Doncaster Rovers visit Blundell Park for a 1pm kick-off