THREE controversial goals and a late, late equaliser – it was certainly a Friday fright night at Blundell Park.
The Reds could have moved up to tenth overnight with a win and it looked like Phil Edwards’ cool spot kick had lifted Stanley to those heady heights, despite all their off-the-field problems at the Crown Ground.
But step forward Barry Conlon who has been a thorn in the Reds’ side for former clubs Bradford and Darlington.
In the fifth and final minute of injury time, his looping header salvaged a point for the ten-man Grimsby, which ended a run of five straight defeats for them.
It was the third time this season the Reds have given away late goals with Rotherham, Chesterfield and now the Mariners forcing John Coleman to bemoan the points which have got away.
"It’s a silly way to lose two points," slammed the Reds boss, with defender Darran Kempson losing Conlon at the death. "You have got to mark your man from set plays and we have tried to play off-side. Some of the lads thought he was off-side but I thought he’d made a clever run.
"Ian Dunbavin has got himself into the wrong position and Darran has let him go. There is no one more upset than Darran in the dressing room.
"We were so close to winning and that’s not the first time it has happened – that we have dropped points late in game.
"We are a third of the way through the season and we have probably cost ourselves five or six points in the last part of games and that would take us into the play-offs."
Stanley have a stunning record against Grimsby with five wins in their last five clashes with the Mariners; Town are struggling without a manager; have just one home league win all season and have conceded the most goals in League Two which meant they were there for the taking.
And it looked like Stanley’s good run would continue when Gary King, on a rare start and on the left wing, broke the off-side trap on five minutes from Andy Procter’s through ball and slotted home.
The Grimsby players were furiously appealing for off-side but in truth it was what the Reds deserved after a lightning start.
Grimsby were back in it on 14 minutes when a free kick into the box caused chaos with Jean Louis Akpro hitting the underside of the crossbar. The ball bounced out to Adrian Forbes – who Stanley believed had handled – before he belted it beyond Dunbavin.
While goalmouth action was in short supply, it didn’t mean a lack of entertainment, although the main performer was referee David Webb who made it a stop-start game – which meant the atmosphere was close to boiling over.
There were appeals for handballs in both areas, bookings that should have been and bookings that weren’t and then another controversial decision led to Stanley’s second.
Mariners’ tall defender Olly Lancashire saw red for appearing to handle a Michael Symes shot on the line following a goalmouth scramble – although replays make it inconclusive. Defender Edwards has proved a cool customer from the spot and he blasted home his third penalty of the season.
Most visiting fans then expected Stanley to go on and seal a comfortable three points but it was the 10 men who pressed – without really testing Dunbavin.
With three minutes left, there was a bizarre incident when referee Webb was hit in the face with the ball which knocked him over and he needed treatment – but did carry on despite the home fans chanting for a change.
And that meant, for the second game running, the Reds had to sit through a lengthy injury time with five nerve jangling minutes – but this time they didn’t hold out.
A free kick found the head of Conlon and the Mariners salvaged a point.
"We weren't anywhere near our best," added a frustrated Coleman.