GRIMSBY Town were forced to settle for a home draw with Lincoln City as both sides finished the game with 10 men.
In a feisty encounter at a wet and windy Blundell Park, the visitors took the lead when Aswad Thomas headed a Sean Newton free kick into his own net.
The game changed when Lincoln’s Bohan Dixon was sent off for a second bookable offence and Town looked to make their extra man count.
The Mariners had their equaliser when Craig Disley struck seven minutes before the break but try as they might, they could not find a way through the Lincoln defence to grab a crucial second goal.
Two quick bookings for Lenell John-Lewis meant he too was sent off and Town were left to reflect on a missed opportunity to complete a Christmas and New year double over their Lincolnshire rivals.
Four changes were made to the Town starting XI after the defeat by Macclesfield at the weekend.
Sam Hatton’s illness saw him replaced by Paul Bignot at right-back, while Scott Neilson was preferred to Alex Rodman, AndI Thanoj replaced Patrick McLaughlin and John-Lewis was selected in place of Andy Cook.
James McKeown began in goal, with Bignot, Shaun Pearson, Chris Doig and Thomas making up the back four.
Joe Colbeck, Disley, Thanoj and Neilson were the midfielders, with John-Lewis and Ross Hannah picked in attack.
Cook, Rodman and McLaughlin were joined on the Grimsby bench by Dayle Southwell and Paul Walker.
Lincoln were without influential midfielder Alan Power, who was sent off in the Imps’ 5-1 loss at Halifax on Saturday.
Jake Sheridan was also missing through suspension after being shown a red card in the closing stages of Town’s 2-0 win at Sincil Bank in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day.
An early foul by Bignot brought the first chance of the game when a Nat Brown header from the resulting free kick had to be tipped over the bar by McKeown.
That led to the start of a sequence of three quickfire corners for the visitors, although none caused any problems for the Town keeper.
The home side’s first chance to put pressure on the Lincoln goal came when Ben Tomlinson tripped Thomas on the left and Colbeck’s driven ball to the far post had to be pushed away for a corner by keeper Paul Farman.
From the flag, Neilson controlled Colbeck’s ball and crossed for Disley, whose header was deflected out for another corner.
Right-back Tom Miller was shown the first yellow card of the game for a foul on Neilson on 11 minutes.
Bohan Dixon was spoken to four minutes later for delaying a Town free kick on the right, before Colbeck’s delivery was cleared to Thanoj, whose shot from 20 yards was pushed behind for a corner. From it, Pearson headed just wide of the far post.
A late challenge on Bignot soon afterwards earned Dixon a booking, before a push by Neilson gave Lincoln a free kick on the right, almost level with the Town penalty area. It produced the opening goal, when Newton’s delivery was headed into his own net by THOMAS for an own goal.
The visitors’ joy was short-lived though, as they were reduced to 10 men for the third game in a row as Dixon was shown a second yellow card for a poor challenge on the Town right.
Striker Ben Tomlinson was the next to go into the referee’s notebook for a late tackle on Doig on the halfway line on 28 minutes.
Soon afterwards, a Town attack led to the ball dropping for John-Lewis inside the penalty area but he could not hit the target with his shot and Lincoln’s lead remained intact.
Hannah won a corner on the right on the half-hour and it almost brought Town an equaliser but Pearson’s header was cleared off the line.
Another corner came three minutes later as the Mariners kept up their pressure and after it was put behind for another flag-kick, the next one was headed clear.
A cross from Bignot was then volleyed wide by Hannah as the hosts continued to attack.
Lincoln attacks were becoming rarer but a drive from Newton from long range had to be tipped away for a corner by McKeown on 36 minutes.
The Mariners had their leveller two minutes later and it was a well-worked goal, as Neilson did well to keep the ball on the edge of the area before sliding it through to DISLEY, whose side-footed shot was deflected past Farman and into the bottom corner.
The visitors won a corner with five minutes to go before the break and Newton’s ball was headed back to him before he curled a cross-shot over the bar.
A corner at the other end came moments later through Bignot on the right but Colbeck’s delivery was headed over the bar by Pearson.
Hannah had a good chance to put Town ahead when a dummy sent him through down the middle but after advancing into the box, he could only shoot high and wide with a right-footed effort under pressure.
Four added minutes were signalled at the end of the half and Lincoln could have snatched the advantage back when a free kick for a foul by Hannah was whipped in by Newton and headed towards goal but McKeown got a hand to the ball and sent it out for a corner.
Hannah and Luke Foster were both spoken to after an altercation near the left touchline but neither was shown a yellow card.
That proved to be the last meaningful action of the half and so the scores remained level at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and a foul by Thanoj on Danny Rowe gave Lincoln the first opportunity of the second half two minutes in. Newton’s free kick from 25 yards was deflected over the bar for a corner, which led to Newton firing well wide.
A deep cross from Pearson towards the far post led to appeals for a penalty by the Town players as they argued John-Lewis had been held back but referee Darren Handley allowed play to go on.
Hannah was bundled over by Miller to give Grimsby a free kick to the left of the Lincoln box. Colbeck drove a shot from it that was deflected away for a corner and after the winger played it short to Neilson, the former Luton man cut into the box but saw his shot blocked.
An obstruction brought another free kick for the hosts but after Colbeck played it across to Neilson, he shot over the bar.
Hannah forced Farman into a good save with an effort from 25 yards just before the hour and the keeper was equal to it, pushing the ball away from danger.
Colbeck won a corner on the right and from it, the Mariners looked set to take the lead as the ball bobbled around the six-yard box but nobody could force it over the line and Brown eventually cleared.
The away side thought they had taken the lead when a through-ball was misjudged by McKeown and Tomlinson took advantage to hammer the loose ball home.
But the play was brought all the way back for a Town free kick on the edge of the Lincoln box after the assistant referee’s flag had gone up. Hannah’s shot from it was blocked for a corner.
John-Lewis was booked for a foul on Foster on 70 minutes. And just two minutes later, he was sent off when a late challenge on Farman brought him a second yellow card against his old club and made it 10-a-side.
Rodman replaced Colbeck soon afterwards, before Tomlinson overran the ball in the Town box when he had what looked to be a good opportunity to reclaim the lead for Lincoln.
Midfielder Jon Nolan was yellow-carded for a foul on Hannah inside the visitors’ half and Rodman’s free kick was headed back across goal by Doig at the far post but it was smashed away for a throw before anybody in black and white could react.
A shot by Connor Robinson was blocked by Disley as the away side briefly threatened again, then Rowe fired over the bar from long range.
Neilson won a corner on the right with six minutes to go and it quickly led to another, which was brought clear by Nolan.
Tomlinson was replaced by Waide Fairhurst for the last four minutes, before Rodman and Hannah both had shots blocked in quick succession as Town looked to win the game.
A free kick on the right for a challenge from behind that brought another booking gave Town another chance but Hannah blasted his shot a long way wide of the far post.
Robinson made way for youngster Kegan Everington as Lincoln boss Gary Simpson made another substitution.
Four added minutes were played at the end of the game but with Town unable to find a way through, the game ended level.
Town are next in action on Saturday when Huddersfield Town are the visitors to Blundell Park in the third round of the FA Cup.