Shirebrook Town powered back from being a goal behind at half-time against hosts Knaresborough Town on Saturday to take all three NCEL points with a second half strike from Jason Gregory on his debut, plus another from first team regular Danny Claridge (pictured) four minutes later securing a 2-1 win.
As well as Gregory, injury-hit Shirebrook gave debuts to keeper Sam Andrew and experienced midfielder Jordan Hall, but the first half belonged to in-form Knaresborough and the visitors had new keeper Andrew to thank for helping keep the half-time deficit to just Colin Heath’s goal for the home side on 28 minutes.
The home side started brightly and Danny Wright worked Andrew with a 22-yard shot after just five minutes that looked to be going in under the Shirebrook crossbar.
Nevertheless, the equally in-form visitors settled into it until halfway through the half when Knaresborough enjoyed a good five minute spell of pressure and Heath scored a goal that looked to be coming with a near post header from Graham Whitehead’s cross into the box from the left, which went into the Shirebrook net at the far post.
There was not much Andrew could have done about that, but five minutes before the end of the half Heath was put through and he hit a 25-yard rising shot from the right quickly.
But the Shirebrook keeper reacted just as fast and saved high to his left to keep his new side in the game heading into the interval.
Without doubt the first half belonged to Knaresborough, but it was a much more determined Shirebrook that emerged for the second half.
Current division top-scorer Aaron Moxam finally began to find some space, and he went close for the visitors four minutes after the restart, and again four minutes later when he worked keeper Weston Marau in the home goal for the first time in the game.
A minute after that Shirebrook were level, the early second half pressure paying off when Ricky Hanson swung a telling corner in from the left and right full back Gregory found the target with a powerful 10-yard far post header that was initially cleared off the line, before rebounding into the home goal off the back of hapless keeper Marau, who was stood in the way.
Four minutes later Shirebrook had their noses in front, left full back Claridge this time allowed to run before unleashing a low 25-yard shot from the left that proved too hot for Marau to handle and he spilled the ball into his net to give the visitors a 2-1 lead and turn the game completely on its head.
However, the shellshocked home side looked to hit back and Heath worked Andrew with a shot from the corner of the box on the left with just under 20 minutes to go.
Knaresborough continued to rack up the pressure, but the visitors stayed solid at the back, although home substitute George Eustance went far too close for comfort, clipping the Shirebrook crossbar from close range 10 minutes later.
The home side lost some of their discipline after that as their frustrations began to get the better of them, picking up four more yellow cards before the end of the game to add to the two they had already collected earlier.
Nevertheless, the visitors kept their cool and they held out, although Knaresborough skipper Liam Gray went close with four minutes to go and Heath might have done better a minute later when the hosts could have salvaged something from the game. But keeper Andrew sealed a fine first game for Shirebrook by coming out on top from the one-on-one to deny the striker.
Next up Shirebrook Town return to Langwith Road on Saturday when the visitors will again be Knaresborough Town, for what might be a feisty back-to-back fixture, quirkily served up this time of year for all Division One clubs courtesy of the NCEL fixtures programme.
KNARESBOROUGH TOWN: Marau, Clayton (Stansfield 80), Radcliffe, Lenehan, Duerden (Thomas 76), Gray, Wright (Eustance 63), Bradley, Heath, Carole, Whitehead. Subs not used: None (all named subs used).
SHIREBROOK TOWN: Andrew, Gregory, Claridge (Wankiewicz 90), Hall (Clarke 76), Henshaw, Witcombe, Booth, Getliff, Moxam, Brown (M Camm 88), Hanson. Subs not used: Thompson.
REFEREE: Nigel Haycock of West Yorkshire.