First half goals from Tom Mullen and Jake Vernon proved to be enough in the end for Shirebrook Town to see off the stubborn challenge of NCEL Division One strugglers Appleby Frodingham at the Brumby Hall Sports Ground on Saturday.
Shirebrook were without injured strikers Dan Williams and Jordan Lemon, and injured defender Tom Rowbotham, but welcomed new players Brandon Cardwell (central defender from Sheffield FC) and Carlos Forbes (midfielder from Parkgate FC) into the starting eleven for the game.
And Shirebrook struggled to get their usual game going, and that allowed Appleby to take the early initiative, but it was the visitors who nevertheless seized the advantage with fifteen minutes gone when Mullen drilled his shot low into the net at the far post after the ball was worked to him on the edge of the box, off Jack Barnett’s throw from the right.
Shirebrook settled a bit after that, although the home side continued to press, but the visitors doubled their lead just before the half-hour when Vernon controversially headed in off the underside of the crossbar after skipper Adam Walker lifted the ball over the heads of the Appleby defenders off Barnett’s free kick from halfway on the right.
The furious home side claimed a clear offside, but the assistant referee had a good view and the goal was allowed to stand, and Shirebrook finished the half the stronger as a consequence, taking the 2-0 scoreline in their favour comfortably into the half-time interval.
But the break was just what Appleby needed and Shirebrook keeper Ben Hallam was worked with the home side’s first attempt on target in the game six minutes after the restart, diving to his right to save Matthew Oates’ 25-yard free-kick that lifted and dipped over the visitors’ defensive wall.
And, with 20 minutes to go, Hallam kept Shirebrook’s two-goal lead intact with a great instinctive save to his right from Appleby first-half substitute Junior Okojie who burst through to gain a clear sight of goal, before firing at the target from 14 yards out.
But that seemed to spark the visitors into a spell of action and a minute later substitute Antony Rowley beat two markers on the right and sent a ball across the 6-yard area which was just begging for someone to get a Shirebrook head on it.
Four minutes after that Jason Bradley fired over the Appleby goal from 8 yards off Vernon’s lay-off from the right from Chris Timon’s sublime through-ball and ten minutes later Bradley went close again, glancing his header just wide of the far angle off Rob Ludlam’s cross from the right.
However, host’s Appleby had scrapped all the game and they almost had the last say on the stroke of full-time, but keeper Hallam kept Shirebrook’s final winning margin intact for the second time in the half, coming off his line to block Matthew Robinson’s shot at the near post, after Oates’ corner from the left could only be half-cleared.
After the game Shirebrook manager Mark Shaw said: “I thought we did enough in the first half. We created enough chances and got the goals because we took our chances. And I thought second half we would go out and stamp our authority on the game, but we didn’t.”
“So I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t take the initiative and kill the game off, but we’ve got three points again and it’s a mission accomplished. Away from home, three points, it’s what we need.”
The win makes it an impressive eleven games in all competitions without defeat for Shirebrook, but Shaw’s focus will just be on taking all three league points when South Yorkshire side Dinnington Town are the visitors to Langwith Road next Saturday for a 3 o’clock kick-off.
In the meantime Shaw plans to take advantage of having no midweek game this week: “We’re going to try and train twice this week. We plan to get the fitness levels up in one training session and, in the other session, we’re aiming to get the link-up play and the way we pass the ball about better ahead of the game on Saturday.”
Appleby Frodingham: Own, Reid, Tait, Fowler (Okojie 22), Holtby, Oates, Spall, Robinson, Bradbury (Fogg 81), McDonald, Robinson. Subs not used: Render, Hagan.
Shirebrook Town: Hallam, Ludlam, L Jackson, Walker, Timons, Cardwell, Barnett, Forbes (Gee 79), Mullen (Rowley 67), Bradley (Jordan 90), Vernon. Subs not used: Booth, Norwood.
Referee: Terry Jackson (South Yorkshire)