Clipstone suffered Notts Senior Cup final heartache on Monday night as they lost to Basford United after extra-time and penalties in a pulsating encounter.
It is the second season running they have been beaten at the final hurdle by Basford, the re-arranged final played at Eastwood on a new artificial 3G pitch after the original game at Mansfield Town on May 10 had been postponed.
There was a late alteration to manager Billy Fox’s plans when ‘keeper Steve Hernandez was forced to withdraw after being in a car accident the previous evening. Fortunately the ‘keeper was unhurt. However there was a boost as Damian Magee returned after three months out through injury.
The first action of note came after 14 minutes when Clipstone’s Sam Finlaw crossed to Oli Ryan who couldn’t get the ball fully under control and his shot went over the bar.
Basford created their first chance on 25 minutes when a Fabian Smith free-kick was headed narrowly wide by Ash Grayson, and they then broke clear through Reuben Wiggins-Thomas who set up Jermain Hollis but the shot went wide.
The Cobras responded immediately and after a free-kick was only half cleared on 31 minutes, Nicky Walker’s first time shot was inches wide of the post.
The first goal of the evening came on 44 minutes as Walker showed pace and strength as he got to the deadball line and crossed to Andrew Fox. The latter shot from close range and despite desperate attempts by a defender to clear, referee Declan Bourne checked with his assistant and confirmed that the ball had crossed the line.
Clipstone again had the first chance in the second period when Finlaw forced a good save from Saul Deeney after an interchange with Walker.
Basford began throwing everything forward in search of an equaliser but the Clipstone back four were playing well as a unit to such an extent that Andy Francis was the quieter of the two goalkeepers at this point.
On 63 minutes Wiggins-Thomas ran onto a through ball but a combination of Chris Salt and Liam Royles denied him a shooting opportunity.
As Basford continued to push forward they started to leave gaps at the back and a long clearance from Salt on 76 minutes found Ryan with space to run into but Deon Meikle did enough to put him off and his eventual shot lacked the power to trouble Deeney.
The Cobras had another chance to finish the game two minutes later when Walker was well-placed but he took an additional touch and again Meikle was able to dispossess him.
Francis was called into action with six minutes remaining when he made a good save to deny Stu Hendrie.
Just as it looked as though the Cobras had sealed the victory Basford grabbed a controversial equaliser in the third minute of added time when full-back Rob Darkin stabbed the ball home from close range although Clipstone defenders were adamant that there was a clear handball by Anthony Griffith in the build up that was not spotted by the referee.
The game therefore moved into extra-time and Basford took the lead after 95 minutes has Darkin headed home a corner.
Salt moved into the attack as the Cobras looked for an equaliser and his cross-cum-shot on 103 minutes almost deceived Deeney who did well to palm the ball away.
Basford had two good opportunities to seal the victory but firstly a brave block by Magee stopped a shot that was heading in and then a fine save by Clipstone man-of-the-match Francis denied Eugen Bopp.
They were made to pay on 118 minutes when Adam Somes latched onto a ball over the top by Brad Holmes and coolly finished from just inside the area.
And so the final had to be decided by penalties. Fox and Salt beat Deeney with their spot-kicks and the Basford keeper made two good saves to deny Royles and Somes and James Ashmore’s effort hit the post as Basford emerged victorious.