GRIMSBY Town climbed back into the Skrill Premier play-off places but were forced to share the points with Gateshead.
On a largely frustrating afternoon at Blundell Park, the Mariners took an early lead through the returning Clayton McDonald but were pegged back when Colin Larkin equalised from the penalty spot.
The visitors then took the lead early in the second half when Marcus Maddison struck but Paul Bignot rescued a point for Town.
McDonald and Scott Kerr both came back into the Grimsby XI after absences through injury, with Chris Doig and Andi Thanoj making way.
James McKeown began in goal, with Bignot, Shaun Pearson, McDonald and Aswad Thomas forming the defence.
Joe Colbeck, Craig Disley, Kerr and Scott Neilson were the midfielders, with Ross Hannah and Lenell John-Lewis paired up front.
Andy Cook, Thanoj, Alex Rodman, Paddy McLaughlin and new signing Jamal Fyfield were all named on the substitutes’ bench.
Gateshead travelled down from the North East looking to extend the good run of form that had seen them climb above the Mariners into fourth in the Skrill Premier table, albeit having played four games more than their hosts.
Two familiar names to home supporters in Gary Mills’ match day squad were midfielders Micky Cummins and John Oster, although both had to settle for a place on the bench.
The game started with Gateshead keeping possession and controlling the opening few minutes but Town had the first attempt at goal on five minutes, with Colbeck smashing an effort from the right that keeper Adam Bartlett had to push away.
Another chance came two minutes later, when a good Colbeck cross from the right was almost met by John-Lewis but away skipper Ben Clark got there first to head it out for a corner.
From the flag, the Mariners took the lead when Kerr’s low delivery to the penalty spot was retrieved by Neilson and chipped towards the far post, where McDONALD headed past Bartlett.
Gateshead were given the perfect opportunity to get straight back into the game on 12 minutes when striker James Brown went down under a challenge from Thomas inside the penalty area and referee Ross Joyce pointed to the spot. LARKIN beat the dive of McKeown to make it 1-1.
Hannah looked to have a chance to restore Town’s lead when the ball broke for him inside the box on 18 minutes but his first-time shot went wide of Bartlett’s far post.
Thomas had a chance to cross from the left on 23 minutes after being put through by Neilson. The left-back found Colbeck at the far post but his shot was saved comfortably by Bartlett.
A better chance came seconds later, when a through-ball from Hannah put Disley one-on-one with the keeper but again, it did not lead to a goal as Bartlett came off his line to make the block.
Hannah missed the target with a low shot from long range on 27 minutes as Town kept attacking, while Gateshead were having a lot of possession without posing a threat to McKeown’s goal.
Bignot was booked for a challenge from behind that caught Lewis Sirrell just inside the Gateshead half but the visitors were unable to create any danger from the resulting free kick.
A run down the left by Thomas led to a free kick to the Mariners after he was fouled by Marcus Maddison, who was booked. Kerr’s in-swinging free kick to the far post was touched away by Bartlett.
Another free kick came soon afterwards when Neilson was fouled by midfielder James Chandler. Hannah’s shot from it was pushed behind by the visiting keeper for a corner.
A ball to the far post from Hannah three minutes before the break led to another corner, which saw Pearson head over the bar from Kerr’s left-wing delivery.
Gateshead’s first corner of the game came two minutes later but it was cleared by Disley.
Three added minutes were signalled by the fourth official and Hannah was the next to be shown a yellow card for a late challenge on James Curtis near the away penalty area.
Chandler saw a 25-yard shot pushed away by McKeown for a corner but the visitors could not turn the set-piece into a goalscoring opportunity and the scores remained level at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and it took nine minutes for the first chance of the second half, which led to the game’s third goal.
A foul by Colbeck near the halfway line gave the visitors a free kick and after it was chipped towards the penalty area, the ball broke for MADDISON to rifle into the corner of McKeown’s net from 20 yards.
A cross from Thomas led to a Town corner on the left two minutes before the hour but it came to nothing, as Kerr’s delivery was too high for Pearson and although the centre-back chased the ball down, his cross was then blocked.
Bignot sent a cross from the right over the bar as he looked to be held back but the referee opted against giving a free kick in favour of the Mariners.
Rodman replaced Colbeck in Grimsby’s first substitution of the game with 63 minutes on the clock.
The sub could have brought his side level after a run through the middle led to him getting the ball back but he could not find the far corner of the net with his shot, which instead drifted wide.
Pearson was booked for dissent after a foul by Bignot as frustration appeared to be setting in among the home players.
A shot from Rodman was blocked for a Town corner but again, they were unable to profit from it.
Rodman, who had added some much-needed energy to the home side’s play, won another corner on 72 minutes but Pearson’s header from it was saved by Bartlett.
Town looked to step up the tempo as they searched for an equalising goal but they were creating little danger for the visiting defence.
Cook replaced Hannah up front with 12 minutes to go in a bid to change that and three minutes later, the hosts were level again when good work by Rodman led to BIGNOT sweeping the ball into the net after a low cross.
The last Town change saw McLaughlin replace Kerr immediately after the goal, with the Mariners now looking for all three points.
A foul by Thomas gave Gateshead a free kick to the right of the Grimsby box, which led to a corner on the opposite side but it was cleared.
Four added minutes were played at the end of the game, with Town attacking in search of a winner.
But that vital third goal eluded them and they were forced to settle for the draw which took them back into fifth position in the league on goal difference.
The Mariners are next in action when they travel to Wrexham on Saturday.