Paul Marshall’s first goal of the season earned FC Halifax Town a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Grimsby at the Shay.
Almost exactly a year to the night Town pummelled the Mariners three days after losing at Forest Green, history didn’t repeat itself as a Grimsby side bearing no relation to its last incarnation at the Shay.
Only 72 hours after playing a much-fancied full-time team, Town faced a much-fancied full-time team, but came away with a lot more positives than on Saturday.
An improved second-half showing did enough for Town to earn a share of the spoils but Grimsby may rue their inability to add to their solitary goal during an excellent first-half display.
Richard Peniket was one of the few to come away from Forest Green with much credit after a lively display on his return from injury.
And he continued in the same vein as his mazy run off the left flank earned a free-kick, which Marshall dispatched for his first goal since the 5-1 thrashing of Hyde in March.
Town started like a side eager to erase the memory of last weekend’s poor performance with Marc Roberts and Marshall snapping into early tackles.
But Grimsby had seen a shot was deflected just over the bar as most supporters were taking their first sips of Bovril, and drew level 11 minutes later.
Former Bradford winger Scott Neilson’s low shot went in off the same post that his drilled effort whistled past shortly afterwards as Grimsby belied their form of three defeats from their last four games.
Neilson’s second effort came with Town down to 10 men as James Bolton limped off, replaced by Kevin Roberts for his home début and only his third appearance of the season.
Grimsby had effectively pressed the mute button on the home supporters, who watched on nervously as the Mariners swarmed around a Town side suddenly forced to knock it long to relieve the pressure.
Only leaders Barnet had scored more away goals than the visitors before tonight and you could see why as the movement of the sprightly Grimsby attack, none more so than the impressive Neilson, threatened to cut swathes through the Town defence.
Former Shayman Ross Hannah nearly got in on the act with a replica of Neilson’s earlier shot as the Town defence was besieged by a Grimsby side bursting with energy.
Grimsby seemed to be playing a second or two quicker than the Shaymen, who weren’t helped by Lois Maynard’s injury, forcing Neil Aspin into another substitution just before the interval.
That half-time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for Halifax as Neilson continued to terrorise the Town defence whenever he got possession.
From his lay-off, Craig Disley’s shot was parried by Matt Glennon but Jack Mackreth’s tap-in was ruled out for offside.
Two headers from Town corners, one brilliantly saved by James McKeown, at least saw the home side rally before the break.
A mix-up between the two Roberts’ a few minutes after the restart presented Hannah with a sight of goal, but Glennon caught his shot from the edge of the box.
Peniket had begun the second-half in the same manner he started the first, with his penetrative runs down the left proving by far Town’s best outlet.
A superb one-two between Kevin Roberts and Danny Schofield then got the Shay crowd believing again, despite the cross evading Scott Boden.
The striker was seeing much more of the ball as a revitalised home side enjoyed their best spell of the game.
It was starting to look like the Mariners’ ship had sailed after failing to find a second goal during their first-half dominance.
But a vicious strike which flashed across goal was a reminder Grimsby’s threat hadn’t gone away.
Mackreth then spurned a glorious chance when his shot was saved by Glennon as one or two Town players appeared to be feeling the affects of their increased work-rate and quicker tempo since half-time.
Schofield was at full-stretch to clear Shaun Pearson’s header off the line from a Grimsby corner as the contest ventured into next-goal-wins territory.
Roberts’ header nearly got it at one end before a nod across goal just needed a Grimsby touch but evaded a hots of players in the box.
Matt Pearson then came mightily close to a spectacular winner but his bicycle kick flew just over in the dying moments.
Halifax: Glennon, Bolton (K Roberts 18), M Roberts, Williams, McManus, Smith (Dyer 83), Pearson, Maynard (Schofield 43), Marshall, Peniket, Boden. Subs not used: Senior, Ainge.
Scorer: Marshall (4)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 6
Grimsby: McKeown, Brown, Pearson, Magnay, Doig, Mackreth (McLaughlin 90), Disley, Clay, Neilson, Hannah, Nsiala. Subs not used: Bignot, Humble, Walker, Winfarrah.
Scorer: Neilson (11)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: Matt Pearson