Other than Ryan Cheetham’s 35th minute deflected strike giving them a brief glimmer of hope, there was very little suggestion that visitors Shirebrook Town would be able to find a way back into the game as they slipped to a 4-1 defeat to Pontefract on Saturday,
Shirebrook were without top scorer Michael Taylor and manager Gary Castledine also had something of a selection headache in the centre of defence, with regulars Lee Bowler and Ben Newman, plus the experienced pair of Chris Timons and new signing Tom Jones, all available for the game.
As it was, Castledine chose to play all four central defenders across the back line, dropping right full-back Paul Burgess to the bench after he had figured in all of the three games since the start of the season.
Pontefract started strongly and got an early grip on the game, taking the lead through Brenton Leister just nine minutes in after he volleyed the ball into the top corner when it came out to him on the edge of the edge of the Shirebrook area from a half-clearance. Shirebrook looked to hit back straight away and a long kick out of his hands by keeper Steve Boot deceived the Pontefract defenders and livewire attacker Antony Rowley was able to get in behind them, only to hit his half-volley straight at Pontefract keeper Ben Saynor.
However, at the other end, the home side were beginning to exploit what seemed like acres of space down either Shirebrook flank and James McDaid doubled the home side’s advantage on 18 minutes after cutting in from the left, before Mcdaid became provider two minutes later, cutting in from the left again and laying the ball back for Leister this time to score his second from 14 yards.
Less than a quarter of the game had been completed at that stage and Shirebrook must have been shell-shocked as Pontefract kept up the pressure, and McDaid rattled the visitors’ crossbar from 22 yards out just before the half-hour.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook probably had their best spell of the game after that with Rowley, in particular catching the eye.
And it was thanks in part to Rowley’s hard work out on the right that the ball eventually found its way to Cheetham on the edge of the box, and he found the back of the Pontefract net on 35 minutes, despite a small deflection off defender Dean Twibey that threatened to send the ball into the keeper’s arms.
The goal lifted Shirebrook and both Rowley and strike-partner Yoandry Depass threatened to reduce the deficit again before the interval.
But the break came just in time for Pontefract and they looked strong again after the re-start.
Craig Robinson clipped the top of the Shirebrook crossbar with a dipping 35-yard shot on 52 minutes and, a minute later, only good work from visiting keeper Boot prevented Nathan Perks adding to the home side’s score. Leister then fired over from 20 yards on the hour but, two minutes later, Shirebrook were exposed again down the flank and Greig McGrory’s low cross from wide on the right across the 6-yard box found Steven Lyon running in at the back post and, with Boot stranded, he slid the ball into the empty net to restore Pontefract’s three-goal advantage.
Boot kept Perks out again with just over 20 minutes to go whilst, in a rare forage at the other end, Timons threatened eight minutes later, his touch-on at the near post from Rowley’s corner on the left almost finding its way over Saynor and into the Pontefract net.
And it was Rowley who almost gave Shirebrook the final say in the game after cutting in from the left, but his 22-yard shot, with four minutes to go, lacked any real power and it proved to be a comfortable save for Saynor at the near post in the end.
Pontefract Collieries: Saynor, Twibey, Edwards, Handley, Copping, Robinson, McGrory, Leister (Tierney 76), Lyon, Perks (Thompson 71), McDaid (L Ormsby 64). Subs not used: Oldham, Lumley.
Shirebrook Town: Boot, Bowler (Bray 73), Newman, Timons, Jones, Vella (Castledine H/T), Rowley, Walker, Depass (Melbourne 57), R Cheetham, Carter. Subs not used: Burgess, Ridgway.
Referee: Neil Walker (South Yorkshire).