Manager Jas Colliver could not disguise his “extreme disappointment” after Clipstone had suffered a surprise home defeat to dent their hopes of honours in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League, Premier Division.
The formbook went out of the window as Clipstone, fourth in the table, fell 3-2 to struggling Barnsley raiders, Athersley Recreation, who began the day only three places off the bottom. And Colliver was annoyed with the way his side had gifted Athersley three goals in the first half.
“We talked in the changing-room about their aerial presence,” he said. “But within the first two minutes of the game, there was a free effort in the box that gave them the lead. It was something that we had highlighted.
“At least we created chances throughout the game, and their ‘keeper pulled off three or four unbelievable saves.”
Before the game, a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day was impeccably observed in memory of those killed in conflict. A silence soon broken by a blustery wind that Athersley made good use of, pumping numerous long balls into the Clipstone box. And when they also pumped the second of two corners into the box, an unmarked Tom Copping was at the far post to beat ‘keeper Steve Hernandez from close range.
Clipstone recovered from the early blow to equalise in the 20th minute when Jahmal Smith drilled home from close range after James Ashmore’s searching pass. But just five minutes later, they found themselves 3-1 behind.
First, Adam Podmore scored with another header from another corner as the Cobras failed to defend with their usual certainty. And then captain Ryan White revelled in more space at the back stick to apply a fine finish.
Clipstone, whose work ethic and commitment could not be faulted, responded by forcing two terrific saves from ‘keeper Neal May, to deny Ashmore and Alec Denton, while Smith also saw an effort cleared off the line. And in the second half, although the wind dropped, they conjured up most of the chances once Hernandez had done well to foil the trickery of Jack Briscoe for the visitors.
However, the home side’s customary sharpness in front of goal deserted them, with May pulling off top-drawer stops to foil man-of-the-match Brad Jones and a Michael Trench free-kick before another goalline clearance thwarted Denton.
Damian Magee also missed a gilt-edged chance, meaning that Clipstone’s only reward was a last-minute consolation goal when top scorer Denton converted a penalty, awarded for handball.
CLIPSTONE LINE-UP -- Hernandez/ Jones, Trench, Hall, Salt (Somes 76), Magee, Smith, Royles (Nightingale 57), Wall (Ryan 54), Ashmore, Denton. SUBS NOT USED Paling, Francis.