Grimsby Town were beaten by a last-minute winner as Harrogate Town snatched all three points after a topsy-turvy Boxing Day encounter.
The Mariners fell behind to an early goal from Luke Armstrong but recovered well, with Otis Khan slotting home the equaliser just before the half-hour. Town now had the momentum and they completed the turnaround when Harry Clifton made it 2-1 three minutes after the break. But despite being on top for long periods, they were unable to hold onto what looked like a winning position and after they could not put the result beyond doubt with a third goal, Harrogate fought back to level the scores again with Armstrong’s second of the game. And after the game moved into added time, a shot from Kayne Ramsey bounced off the post and into the net off the unfortunate Max Crocombe to win it for the North Yorkshire side.
Town boss Paul Hurst named an unchanged starting XI following the home victory over Tranmere Rovers on December 10, while there were welcome returns on the bench for Sean Scannell and Anthony Glennon. Crocombe started in goal, with Michee Efete, Luke Waterfall, Niall Maher and Danny Amos forming the defence. Kieran Green sat behind a midfield of Brendan Kiernan, Gavan Holohan, Clifton and Khan, with John McAtee again leading the attack. Joining Scannell and Glennon among the substitutes were Alex Hunt, Bryn Morris, Danilo Orsi, Keyendrah Simmonds and Andy Smith.
Harrogate began the day 20th in the table, eight points behind the Mariners in 14th but having won their previous two league games, against Rochdale and Mansfield Town. A familiar face in the hosts’ matchday squad was former Town winger Max Wright, who was named on the bench.
Harrogate won an early corner when a shot by Tyler Frost was deflected over the bar. The flag-kick was brought clear by Kiernan.
Josh Falkingham was spoken to by referee Bobby Madden after a heavy challenge on Holohan near the halfway line, although Town were unable to create an opening in front of goal from the resulting free kick.
Armstrong fizzed a ball across the six-yard line after a home free kick from halfway broke to him at the far post and the cross was deflected behind for a corner, which was eventually dealt with after a strike from Frost was blocked.
A cross from Kiernan at the other end was blocked as Town looked to turn a promising start in terms of possession into goalscoring opportunities.
But Harrogate had looked the more dangerous in attack in the early stages and they opened the scoring on 12 minutes. Sam Folarin managed to keep the ball in at the end of a run down the right and his pull-back found ARMSTRONG, who had the simple task of tapping into an empty net from six yards.
A low cross from Efete was cleared after Kiernan had done well to hold the ball up and find the overlapping right-back, then Clifton beat Frost down the right but his low centre was hacked away for a throw-in, as the visitors looked to respond to going behind.
Green tried his luck with a volley from 25 yards but home keeper Pete Jameson held the shot at the second attempt, with McAtee closing in for the rebound.
A good challenge on Clifton then stopped a promising Town attack on 20 minutes, after McAtee had slid the ball into the box towards the midfielder.
Khan curled a strike wide from the left after the visitors had attacked at pace, with McAtee again instrumental in the approach.
And eventually, the away pressure told on 29 minutes as Town found their equaliser. This time, the attack came down the right and after a good build-up, Efete’s low ball across the six-yard line was put into the net at the far post by KHAN.
Warren Burrell was shown the game’s first yellow card on the half-hour for a late challenge on Holohan. Amos’ free kick was headed on by Waterfall on the edge of the penalty area but the ball was then cleared.
McAtee dragged a low shot wide from 20 yards after linking up with Holohan as Town looked to complete the turnaround, before Clifton saw a shot blocked after being found inside the box by Holohan.
Jameson was called into action on 35 minutes to stop an effort from McAtee after the striker was put through by Holohan, then another McAtee shot, this time from 25 yards, was also held by the keeper.
After recovering from falling behind, Town had now taken the initiative with half-time approaching and were pushing forward in search of a second goal.
Ramsey was booked for a poor challenge on Clifton near the Mariners’ dugout, with Crocombe also shown the yellow card after racing to join the protests.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the first half but with no further chances coming for either side, the scores remained level at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and there was almost an early opening for Folarin but good defending by Waterfall saw the ball through to Crocombe.
instead, the Mariners took the lead three minutes in, when McAtee was given space around the edge of the box to work an opening. He went around Jameson before going down but the ball broke for CLIFTON, who stepped to the left and slotted the ball into the net.
Folarin glanced a header wide for the Harrogate after a cross from the right, then another ball from the home right was headed across goal by Efete but Armstrong could only fire wide of the far post.
Khan shot wide of the near post after a powerful, 25-yard strike by Amos was not held by Jameson, as Town aimed to double their advantage.
Armstrong won a corner at the other end two minutes after the hour but nobody could get to the delivery from the flag and the ball went out for a goal kick.
Jack Muldoon replaced Frost for the home side in the game’s first substitution on 65 minutes, then Crocombe did well to hold a cross from Armstrong under pressure.
A Clifton strike from distance soon afterwards deflected away for a corner on the Town left and it was played to Holohan, whose low effort from 25 yards was blocked.
A corner came on the Grimsby right on 74 minutes but after Waterfall got his head to the ball from it, the referee blew for a foul and a home free kick.
Soon afterwards, Harrogate were back on level terms, as danger-man ARMSTRONG beat the offside trap to race clear and calmly slot past Crocombe to make it 2-2.
A foul on Holohan gave Town an instant chance to respond with a free kick in a central position, 25 yards from goal. McAtee’s shot from it was straight at keeper Jameson, who claimed a comfortable catch.
Wright replaced Folarin with 11 minutes to go and with the game now in the balance as both sides looked for the decisive goal to claim all three points.
The former Mariner’s first contribution was to cut in from the right and hit a shot from the edge of the box but he was unable to generate enough power on it.
Orsi replaced Kiernan in Town’s first change and an opening came soon afterwards, with Amos getting to the byline on the left and clipping a cross towards the far post which was headed on but the ball was eventually caught by Jameson.
McAtee fired over the bar from outside the box on 87 minutes, before Armstrong headed at Crocombe at the other end after meeting a cross from Wright.
Josh Austerfield replaced Josh Coley for the hosts just before the game moved into three minutes of added time.
An the decisive blow was struck a third of the way through the additional period, as a shot from Ramsey bounced back off the post, hit the unlucky Crocombe’s back and rolled into the net for an own-goal.
Amos won a corner when his shot was pushed behind by Jameson as Town tried to rescue a point but the flag-kick came to nothing and the referee’s final whistle confirmed a disappointing defeat.
The Mariners are next in action on Thursday, when Salford City will be the visitors to Blundell Park.