Grimsby Town were beaten on penalties after showing great character to come from two goals down to draw with Manchester City U21 in their EFL Trophy group stage opener at Blundell Park.
The Mariners started brightly but fell behind on nine minutes when striker Will Dickson opened the scoring for the Premier League youngsters.
After going in front, City gained control of the game and doubled their advantage through Joel Ndala but the turning point came 10 minutes before the break when defender Jahmai Simpson-Pusey was shown a straight red card.
After the break, it was all Town as their visitors’ gameplan switched to aiming to hold onto their lead and the home side’s relentless attacking eventually paid off when half-time substitute Harry Clifton halved the deficit.
Town were now firmly on the front foot and they got the equaliser their efforts deserved when Rekeil Pyke made it 2-2 in stoppage time.
That meant a shootout was required but after Anthony Glennon and Arthur Gnahoua both saw their penalties saved, City took the extra point when they scored all four of their spot-kicks.
Grimsby boss Paul Hurst took the opportunity to rotate his squad, with only Toby Mullarkey, Niall Maher and Charles Vernam remaining in the starting XI from the team that began the draw at Walsall on Saturday and Jamie Andrews making his debut after signing on loan from West Bromwich Albion.
Harvey Cartwright was selected in goal, behind a back four of Michee Efete, Mullarkey, Maher and Glennon. Gnahoua, Alex Hunt, Andrews and Evan Khouri were the midfielders, with Vernam supporting Pyke in attack.
The substitutes were Jake Eastwood, Harvey Rodgers, Luke Waterfall, Harry Clifton, Danny Amos, Jamie Bramwell and Kamil Conteh.
Manchester City U21 arrived in Cleethorpes fresh from a 4-4 home draw with Aston Villa in Premier League 2 at the weekend, although that was the first league point Brian Barry-Murphy’s men had picked up so far this season after defeats by Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham.
An early cross from Efete was collected by City goalkeeper George Murray-Jones, before the visitors won the first corner on their left, although they were unable to cause any problems from it.
An attempt by Andrews was blocked after a good build-up involving Khouri on the left, then a good challenge by Simpson-Pusey stopped Khouri as he again looked to make progress from the left.
Gnahoua won a corner on the right on eight minutes as Town continued to make the early running and it eventually led to another one when Andrews’ delivery was not fully dealt with. This time, the ball was played short to Glennon and his cross was headed out for a throw-in.
But despite the home side’s early pressure, it was their visitors who grabbed the lead on nine minutes. Hunt’s loose ball led to a weak back-pass from Efete and it was capitalised on by DICKSON, who nipped in to round Cartwright and tap into the empty net.
A low shot by Justin Oboawoduo was comfortably stopped by Cartwright but by the 20-minute mark, the game had settled down, with neither goalkeeper being called into serious action and the visitors starting to gain control of the midfield.
Andrews hit the side-netting with a low strike from a narrow angle on the right, before Maher was shown the first yellow card of the evening for bringing Dickson down as he looked to skip past the defender. The resulting free kick from Mahamadou Susoho was straight at Cartwright, who made a comfortable catch.
Town fell further behind just before the half-hour as City doubled their advantage, with NDALA cutting inside from the left and whipping a shot from the edge of the box which Cartwright got a hand to but was unable to keep out.
A turning point came on 35 minutes when the City youngsters were reduced to 10 men. Pyke got to a through-ball from Khouri ahead of Simpson-Pusey near the edge of the box and after the defender brought him down, the referee brandished the red card. Hunt sent the free kick over the bar.
Isaac Smith replaced Emilio Lawrence for the away side as Barry-Murphy made the first substitution to fill the gap in defence left by the sending-off.
Gnahoua then fired over the bar after good play by Efete down the right as Town aimed to hit back before half-time.
The fourth official signalled for a minimum of three added minutes and with no further chances for either side, City retained their two-goal advantage at the interval.
Clifton replaced Vernam for Town before the restart and an early cross from Glennon was headed clear as the hosts launched the first attack of the second half.
Another centre from Glennon was caught by Murray-Jones, then a ball into the box from Mullarkey was headed back across goal by Clifton but again, it was comfortable for the keeper.
Town won a corner on the right five minutes in as their promising opening to the half continued, although they could not convert it into a chance in front of goal.
Mullarkey let fly from distance with a strike which whistled over the bar, before Dickson saw a shot blocked at the other end and the rebound from Tomas Galvez was blocked by Cartwright at close range for a corner, which led to an offside decision.
A Glennon cross was sliced over the bar for a corner on the left on 57 minutes but the ball from the flag was dealt with by the City defence.
Another corner, this time from the right, was worked to Khouri in a central position, although his 20-yard strike was off-target.
Kane Taylor and Farid Alpha-Ruprecht replaced Ndala and Oboawodou on 64 minutes as the hosts remained on the attack, with Murray-Jones punching a ball from Mullarkey away from danger.
Amos came on in place of Andrews in Town’s second change and their latest corner led to a header from Gnahoua being cleared off the line. City broke clear at speed and created an opening but a vital touch from Clifton on a low cross got the ball away from goal.
Gnahoua curled a shot wide after a good touch from Clifton at the other end, then Gnahoua became the latest to see the referee’s yellow card for what was adjudged to be simulation when he went down inside the box.
The Mariners continued to attack and they finally got their reward when they halved the deficit with 13 minutes to go. A corner from Glennon was not fully dealt with and Gnahoua’s shot took a deflection off CLIFTON, which sent it into the net.
Town were now firmly back in the contest and they were almost level when Khouri met a cross from the right but his header was superbly tipped over the bar by Murray-Jones.
Khouri then hit the bar from the home side’s next opportunity as they kept pushing for an equaliser.
Pyke was denied and a scramble eventually resulted in another excellent block by the keeper, then Efete met a cross from the left at the far post but sent his header just over the bar.
A foul on Mullarkey gave the Mariners a free kick in a dangerous position with three minutes remaining but after Jacob Wright and Jaden Heskey were introduced from the away bench, the Mariners were unable to make the free kick count.
But after the fourth official signalled for seven added minutes, the home attacking finally paid dividends as they grabbed a deserved equaliser. Mullarkey sent the ball towards the far post and PYKE was first to it to prod home.
The Mariners kept pushing as they looked to complete the turnaround and avoid a penalty shootout and they had the ball in the net five minutes into the added time when Pyke turned Clifton’s low cross past Murray-Jones, only for the offside flag to be raised against the striker.
Clifton’s cross-shot narrowly missed the target at the far post and that proved to be the final opportunity for Town to win the game inside normal time.
That meant at least point apiece, with an extra point on offer to the winners of the shootout.
Hunt and Clifton scored from the spot with Town’s first and third penalties but Glennon and Gnahoua were both denied by Murray-Jones and City scored from all four of their attempts to take the win.
The Mariners emerged with great credit though, following a second-half display full of character which ensured their Trophy campaign started with a point.
They now return to league action, with Gillingham set to visit Blundell Park on Saturday.