Shirebrook Town were left frustrated and still looking for their first win of October after they fell to a 2-1 defeat against current Division One leaders and league newcomers Shaw Lane Aquaforce at a rain-soaked Langwith Road on Saturday.
The home side made a promising start, but the visitors soon began to impose themselves on the game and Shirebrook keeper Joe McCormack had a taste of what was to come when he had to punch away Danny Frost’s shot from 22 yards in the difficult conditions on eight minutes.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook thought they had taken the lead two minutes later when a well-worked move on the edge of the Shaw Lane box saw Aaron Moxam put the ball in the net, but disappointment quickly followed with a denying assistant referee’s flag raised in a tight decision for offside.
Soon after that the focus returned to the other end of the pitch and McCormack was kept busy with shots on target from Ashley Flynn and Mark Whitehouse, before Shaw Lane took the lead on 19 minutes; a scrappy effort that that came from a ball to the far post from the right, which skipper Luke Danville headed back across goal and Frost chested in from close range.
It seemed like the goal had been coming and the visitors continued to pile on the pressure, but they were left stunned on 34 minutes when Shirebrook equalised in controversial circumstances through Moxam from 16 yards off a ball chipped over the top that caught the visitors’ defenders flat-footed.
Shaw Lane claimed Moxam had handled the ball in the build-up, but the goal was allowed to stand, despite prolonged protests to match referee Martin Chester.
That was just the lift the home side needed but, just when it seemed there would be nothing to separate the sides going into the interval, the visitors took a 2-1 lead with a goal moments before the referee blew his whistle for the end of the half.
The ball went into the net off home defender Ross Henshaw, Whitehouse finding the target with a shot fired in from just inside the box on the right after Shirebrook could only half-clear the same player’s corner from the same side.
And that goal proved to be the vital one that decided the game in the end, despite Shirebrook making more of a fist of it in a scrappy second half period littered with irritating stoppages and unnecessary delays.
The home side applied some good early pressure and might have equalised just after the hour when Danny Bacon whipped a cross in from the right that just went over the heads of Danny Wiltshire and Sean Dickinson unmarked at the far post.
But the visitors seemed happy just to see the game out after that, making the most of some weak officiating and holding up play whenever possible, content to hit Shirebrook on the break as the home side pushed forward to get something from the game.
Even so, Shaw Lane’s Flynn should have put the result beyond any doubt with three minutes to go when he was gifted the ball 35 yards from the Shirebrook goal but, with the home side stretched and only McCormack left to beat, he somehow shot wide of the empty net from the edge of the box.
The Barnsley-based side were almost left to rue that miss a minute into time added on at the end when Wiltshire wriggled into space and shot from 12 yards out at the left hand post, but Jamie Green was quickly off his line, just getting his hand to the ball before another questionable long stoppage for injury ensued after Wiltshire’s momentum carried him into the Shaw Lane keeper.
When play finally looked like it might get underway again, there followed an episode of ball swapping instigated by the visitors’ keeper complaining to the referee before the game could restart.
And that was soon followed by more delays with the same player kicking the replacement ball out of the ground, which didn’t exactly endear him to the home supporters, the same ones who had already taken him off their Christmas card list for his earlier antics.
Next up, Shirebrook Town stay at Langwith Road on Tuesday night for the second visit in two weeks of Worsbrough Bridge Athletic, this time to decide who will progress to the Second Round of the League Cup.
The eventual winner’s prize for which is a trip to Premier Division side Pickering Town midweek in the last week of November. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.
That is followed on Saturday with a return to league matters and a trip into North Yorkshire for Shirebrook where they will face Selby Town (3pm), manager Julian Watts will be hoping his side can get back to winning ways and bring home three points.
SHIREBROOK TOWN: McCormack, Cobley, Claxton, Booth (Hartley 62), Wankiewicz, Henshaw, Bacon, Getliff, Moxam, Wiltshire, Dickinson (Claridge 73). Subs not used: M Camm, Bachner, Rowbotham.
SHAW LANE: Green, Moore, Fawcus, Danville (Barlow 51), Cyrus, Haigh, Reece, Swift, Flynn, Frost (Coy 39), Whitehouse. Subs not used: Connolly, Haywood, Fothergill.
REFEREE: Martin Chester of Lincolnshire.