Emmanuel Dieseruvwe scored a hat-trick as Grimsby Town and Eastleigh shared eight goals in the final game of the National League’s regular season.
A much-changed Mariners side dominated the first half at the Silverlake Stadium and took a deserved two-goal advantage in with them at the break after Jordan Maguire-Drew opened the scoring and Dieseruvwe added a second from the penalty spot.
Eastleigh had offered little in attack but improved greatly after the interval, with half-time substitutes Daniel Whitehall and Sam Smart getting them level within 11 minutes of the restart.
Dieseruvwe gave Town their lead back twice, either side of Jake Hesketh making it 3-3, but the away side were unable to hold on for all three points as a late Tyrone Barnett penalty ensured a see-saw contest ended level.
With a top-seven finish already secure, Grimsby boss Paul Hurst opted to rotate his squad as he made nine changes to the starting XI following Tuesday’s home victory over Boreham Wood.
Only Jordan Cropper and Shaun Pearson remained from that line-up, as Ollie Battersby was given a start in goal and Jamie Bramwell made his league debut alongside Pearson in the centre of defence. Cropper and Adam Crookes made up the back four, with Maguire-Drew, Joey Jones, Giles Coke, Scott Burgess and Max Wright forming the midfield and Dieseruvwe leading the line in attack.
There was a return for Aston Villa loanee Arjan Raikhy as he was named on the bench following a lengthy injury lay-off. Youngsters Harvey Tomlinson, Aaron Braithwaite and Evan Khouri were also named as substitutes, along with Tristan Abrahams.
Eastleigh were playing their last game of the season, having comfortably secured another National League campaign for 2022-23. Former Mariners defender Andrew Boyce was a familiar face in the Spitfires’ line-up.
An early foul by Maguire-Drew gave the hosts a free kick in the first minute but the delivery from it was headed clear by Pearson.
Hesketh fired over the bar as Eastleigh registered the first attempt at goal of the afternoon, before Wright shot at home keeper Ross Flitney at the other end after a break by Crookes.
A long throw from Cropper on eight minutes was cleared as far as Burgess but he missed the target, then a cross from Vincent Harper was headed behind by Wright for the first corner of the game, which caused no problems as the short ball from the flag was also dealt with by Wright.
Wright forced Flitney to tip a shot away from goal after good play by Maguire-Drew, before a run and shot from Dieseruvwe led to a goal kick after the rebound went behind off Wright.
A cross from Burgess was blocked by Flitney as the Town pressure continued, then Burgess lifted a shot wide of the near post on 18 minutes as the visitors created another chance.
The Mariners won a corner soon afterwards but it was cleared and a foul by Burgess gave Eastleigh a free kick on the halfway line. The delivery from it bounced over Brennan Camp and away to safety.
A foul by Wright on Camp gave the home side another free kick on 21 minutes but the ball from it was cleared.
Wright won a free kick moments later when he was brought down by Hesketh. Maguire-Drew’s delivery into the box was cleared but Town retained possession and a cross was headed away at the near post.
Maguire-Drew missed the target with a curling shot on 25 minutes, then the winger earned the next free kick when he was fouled by Harper. It led to a cross from Cropper, which was blocked.
The next Mariners attack saw them take the lead, as a throw-in led to Town working the ball around the edge of the box to Dieseruvwe. A flick from Burgess then found MAGUIRE-DREW, who took a touch before rolling the ball past Flitney and into the net.
Pearson was shown the first yellow card of the game for a foul on Simpson and after the free kick was chipped into the box, Pearson headed it behind for an Eastleigh corner, which was flicked wide at the near post for a goal kick.
A cross from Crookes was headed clear as the visitors went in search of a second goal, then a good ball from Bramwell to Cropper led to a corner on the right, which was also headed away.
Maguire-Drew set off on a great run on 40 minutes and after working his way into the penalty area, he lifted the ball over Flitney but did not get his reward as Boyce got back to clear off the line for a corner.
Town were given an opportunity to double their advantage two minutes before the break when Dieseruvwe was brought down by Flitney inside the box. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and DIESERUVWE stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way and make it 2-0.
Three added minutes were played before the break and Town went forward again in the first of them, although the offside flag went up against Dieseruvwe as Wright sent the ball across towards the striker.
A Maguire-Drew corner was nodded clear at the near post and with no further chances coming before the half-time whistle, Town went into the dressing room with a deserved two-goal lead.
Raikhy came on in place of Coke before the restart, while Smart and Whitehall replaced Lyle Simpson and Tom Bragg for the hosts.
A foul by Jones gave Hesketh an opportunity to loop a free kick into the Grimsby penalty area but it caused no problems.
Battersby was tested for the first time when he tipped a shot from around the post for a corner four minutes in. The ball from the flag was cleared.
Smart won another corner soon afterwards but again, the hosts were unable to profit from it. More home pressure came moments later but brave defending from Bramwell got the ball away from danger.
The hosts were back within one goal on 54 minutes though, as a mistake led to Camp getting the ball on the Eastleigh right. He found substitute WHITEHALL, who had the time and space inside the box to pick his spot and beat Battersby.
And in a flash, they were level as Town’s lead was wiped out less than two minutes later. This time, it was the other sub, SMART, who found himself unmarked at the far post to make it 2-2.
The home side had not created much of note in the first half but had made a great recovery in just 11 second-half minutes.
They went in search of an unlikely third goal and won a corner but this time, Pearson got the ball clear.
And soon afterwards, the Mariners grabbed their lead back as DIESERUVWE got in behind the Eastleigh defence to meet a through-ball and steer it low past Flitney for 3-2.
Abrahams replaced Maguire-Drew in Town’s second change three minutes after the hour and Raikhy became the second to be booked after a foul on Hesketh five minutes later.
The free kick came to nothing but it was not long before the scoresheet was added to again, as Eastleigh grabbed their second equaliser. Burgess was dispossessed by Camp and he found HESKETH, who beat Battersby despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball.
Jones set off on a run through the middle as Town looked to reclaim the lead once again but he overran the ball and it went through to Flitney.
Abrahams was flagged offside on 75 minutes as a Mariners counter-attack abruptly came to an end, before another attack featuring Abrahams and Dieseruvwe led to Hesketh getting to the ball ahead of Cropper.
Flitney beat Abrahams to a through-ball from Raikhy, before a late challenge on Burgess came after a short spell of home possession and earned Seung-Woo Yang a yellow card. The free kick led to Abrahams shooting across goal and out for a goal kick.
Abrahams hit the side-netting on 83 minutes after electing to go for goal from the left instead of squaring for Dieseruvwe, who looked to have a tap-in for a hat-trick.
A Town corner came soon afterwards after a ball from Raikhy took a deflection before it could reach Dieseruvwe, although the delivery from the flag did not lead to a chance in front of goal.
Ryan Hill replaced Hesketh in Eastleigh’s final change with five minutes remaining and seconds later, Dieseruvwe had an opportunity to put Town ahead again but saw his shot saved by Flitney.
But the striker was not to be denied and he finally had his treble on 86 minutes. Cropper did well to meet a ball from Cropper and when he played it across, DIESERUVWE was there to finish at the near post and give Town the advantage again.
Tomlinson came on for Wright after the goal and there was still time for another goal in the game as a handball from Cropper inside the box was spotted by the referee. The right-back was booked and BARNETT stepped up to fin the net from 12 yards and make it 4-4.
Four added minutes were played and Town had an opportunity to snatch all three points back when Cropper crossed for Abrahams but the striker could only head wide.
That proved to be Town’s last chance to win the game as they ended their regular season with an away point.
The full focus will now be on the play-offs, with the Mariners scheduled to travel to Notts County in the elimination round on Monday, May 23.