Grimsby Town made it five games unbeaten in Sky Bet League Two as they earned an away point against Bradford City in front of the live Sky Sports cameras.
On a sweltering lunchtime in West Yorkshire, the Mariners were close to securing a victory which would have sent them up to second in the league table ahead of the day’s later matches, after Danny Rose’s header gave them the lead just before half-time.
It was nothing more than Town deserved after an excellent first-half display which saw Paul Hurst’s men control possession and limit their hosts to few opportunities.
Bradford were much-improved after the break but the visitors defended superbly, although they were unable to hold on for all three points as the home pressure finally paid off when substitute Alex Gilliead equalised with a minute remaining.
Grimsby were unchanged after last week’s league victory over Gillingham, with goalkeeper Jake Eastwood lining up behind a defence of Toby Mullarkey, Harvey Rodgers, Niall Maher and Danny Amos. Kamil Conteh sat behind Arthur Gnahoua, Gavan Holohan, Harry Clifton and Abo Eisa in midfield, as Rose led the attack.
New recruit Callum Ainley was handed a place on the bench after his signing was announced pre-match, with Harvey Cartwright, Michee Efete, Luke Waterfall, Rekeil Pyke, Jamie Andrews and Alex Hunt also listed as substitutes.
Bradford were without injured former Mariners striker Andy Cook, although manager Mark Hughes still named a strong line-up featuring ex-Premier League attacker Matt Derbyshire.
Town were first to go forward and a cross from Holohan on the right was cleared, then a foul on Rose on the halfway line brought another chance to attack but the free kick from Amos was cleared.
Gnahoua called home keeper Harry Lewis into action with a low strike from distance on four minutes and the stopper could only parry it, although the offside flag went up from the rebound.
A late challenge on Holohan earned defender Ciaran Kelly the game’s first yellow card, then Eisa was also booked after catching Brad Halliday near the halfway line.
Bradford were yet to make an impression at the 15-minute mark after Town had started the match on the front foot, with the visitors controlling possession.
A cross from the home left was well intercepted by Maher before it could reach Derbyshire, before Eastwood had to race out of his penalty area to stop another attack as the hosts began to come into the game.
Jamie Walker fired harmlessly wide of the far post after a run down the Bradford right but as the action stopped for the first scheduled drinks break, the Mariners still looked the better of the two sides.
A Gnahoua cross was cleared after it had been headed down, then Rodgers became the second Town player to see the referee’s yellow card after a sliding challenge on Lewis Richards.
Amos also went into the referee’s notebook when he was cautioned for a trip on Walker on 34 minutes. Bobby Pointon’s free kick from the right was headed away by Rodgers.
Lewis had to get down and beat Eisa to a low cross from Rose as the away side continued to look bright with half-time looming,
And with 43 minutes on the clock, the Mariners got the goal which their performance so far had richly deserved. After Gnahoua had done well to control and hold up a diagonal ball from Amos, Mullarkey sent a cross into the box from the right and ROSE met it to head past Lewis.
The fourth official signalled for a minimum of four added minutes at the end of the first half and after no further chances were created by either side, Town went in at the break with the advantage.
Gilliead and Rayhaan Tulloch replaced Kelly and Kevin McDonald for Bradford ahead of the restart and an early cross from Halliday was cleared by Rodgers.
The hosts won a corner less than 30 seconds in but it caused no problems as Sam Stubbs’ header was caught by Eastwood.
A foul on Conteh gave Town their first opportunity to attack since the interval, although Rodgers was unable to get his head to the free kick.
Pointon was brought down by Mullarkey on 49 minutes and Walker’s free kick was pushed away for a corner by Eastwood. This time, Stubbs’ header from the flag-kick was blocked by Maher for another one. It was cleared but Bradford retained possession and kept up the pressure with a further corner, which was cleared.
Conteh was penalised for what was adjudged to be a foul on the home left but Richie Smallwood’s free kick was headed clear.
Bradford kept attacking and a strike by Gilliead was deflected away for the latest corner on their left. Rodgers got to it first to head clear.
Town had not enjoyed as much possession after half-time but they had a promising position when Rose was fouled midway inside the home half. They were unable to make it count though, as Gnahoua’s chipped free kick drifted out for a goal kick.
Pointon created the next chance when he cut inside from the left and let fly from the edge of the box but Eastwood remained untroubled as the ball went wide of his far post.
Bradford’s third substitution saw Chisom Afoka replace Derbyshire on 67 minutes and his first action was to win a corner on the right. It turned into another one, this time on the left. Holohan headed the delivery from the flag away as far as Halliday, who sent a fierce, dipping volley just over the bar from 25 yards.
After a drinks break at the midway point of the half, Gnahoua forced Lewis into a good save from his 20-yard drive, before Town’s first change saw Efete replace Amos at left-back.
Maher had to clear a low cross at the other end as Bradford kept pushing for an equaliser but the Mariners earned some respite with a free kick on the left, in front of their travelling fans, although they were unable to turn it into a chance in front of goal.
Pyke came on for Eisa with 11 minutes remaining, then Emmanuel Osadebe replaced Walker in the colours of the hosts three minutes later.
Osadebe immediately won a free kick inside the Town half but it was headed away by Holohan and Pyke brought the ball clear.
Jonathan Tomkinson became the latest to come off the Bradford bench when he replaced Stubbs.
Pyke won a corner after Rose had gone down inside the box and Gnahoua’s delivery was nodded behind for another one, this time on the opposite, left flank. This time, the ball from it was headed clear.
Bradford had been pushing since the interval and they finally found their equaliser on 89 minutes, as GILLIEAD turned on the edge of the box and rifled a shot past Eastwood.
As the game moved into a minimum of six additional minutes, the hosts were looking to complete the turnaround and grab all three points, although Town were showing positive signs that they were not finished yet either.
A Maher long throw was caught by Lewis and in Bradford’s next attack, Tulloch went down inside the Town penalty area but the referee ruled he had dived and produced the yellow card.
Another long throw from Maher led to a chance when the ball broke for Holohan on the edge of the box but the midfielder’s strike went just wide.
Maher then fired over the bar after another of his long throws had eventually come back to him inside the box, with both sides still aiming to win the game.
Ultimately though, neither could find a way through and both had to settle for a point.
Town are on the road again next Saturday, when they make the trip to north Wales to face Wrexham.