It was a classic tale of two halves for Clipstone on the road at Brigg Town in the NCEL Premier.
The visitors were disjointed and off the pace for much of the opening 45 minutes, in which they gave themselves a mountain to climb.
But they came back after the break looking fluent, assertive and were unlucky not to come away from the Hawthorns with at least a point.
While not wanting to look for excuses, it would be fair to say that Clipstone didn’t seem to get the rub of the green out of 50-50 decisions from referee Andy Dunn.
With three of Jas Colliver’s first picks: Steve Hernandez, James Ashmore and Jahmal Smith all unavailable for selection.
With only one outfield player on the bench, besides Colliver, Clipstone had to reshuffle the pack against a Brigg side who were bolstered by three dual registered signings from Evo-Stik League side Lincoln United - Danny Brooks, Matt Cotton and Jake Gibson.
In the event, Brooks was pivotal to most of the Zebras build up play and took responsibility for all of their dead balls, while Cotton proved to be a real handful down the left flank and was a real thorn in Clipstone’s side all night.
The less said about the first half the better from a Clipstone perspective, as Brigg powered into a two-goal lead, when they scored twice within four minutes, having already gone close inside the first quarter of a hour of the game.
Brooks picked out Chaz Fisher with a left wing corner and the Zebras right back opened the scoring with a free header. The home side doubled their lead shortly afterwards, when Elliott Broughton rode a challenge as he cut into the visitors area from the right flank and curled an unstoppable shot into the top left hand corner.
The Cobras, playing into the wind, did make a few tentative advances into the Brigg half without troubling the home side’s ‘keeper Jody Barford too much.
It was their hosts who looked more likely to score again and if truth be told, the remainder of the first half would have to go down as a ‘damage limitation’ exercise by Colliver’s side,
In fact the nearest that Barford came to being beaten was when one of his own defenders headed the ball back to him a little too firmly from an Alex Denton cross.
The Clipstone manager would’ve been grateful to hear the half time whistle sound, so he could get his side back into the dressing room and refocus and reorganise them.
Whatever was said in the visitors dressing room seemed to do the trick and from the restart Clipstone looked unrecognisable from the side who had trudged off disconsolately from the pitch at half time.
Liam Royles picked out Josh Scully with a great knock, but Clipstone’s recent new signing, who was showing some good touches in spite of a lack of match fitness at the moment, saw his cross headed away to safety.
Play switched quickly and Andy Frances saved well from Brooks to keep his side in the game.
But five minutes into the second half, it was game on, when a great passage of build up play including Royles, Scully and Alec Denton saw Nicky Walker pull a goal back for the visitors from ten yards out.
The referee missed a handball in the middle of the park as Brigg attacked, but Elliott Broughton fired over the bar, so in the event, the officials error wasn’t a costly one for the visitors.
Ellis Wall almost drew his side level, but his dipping shot fizzed inches over the bar after Walker had unselfishly laid the ball off to him.
Liam Nelthorpe, playing his first game for a while, was getting to grips with his midfield role and combining well with Scully, the midfield live wire was only inches away from scoring, after Denton and Walker had created an opening in the Brigg defence.
It was Nelthorpe who started the move that led to Clipstone’s equaliser when he won the ball in midfield and slipped it to Scully, who in turn fed it forward to Walker, whose cross from the byline across the face of goal only needed a touch, unfortunately for Brigg, it was Fisher who diverted it over his own goal line.
Luke Randle was getting forward down the left flank and causing the home side a few problems.
With Magee and Salt shutting up shop at the back and Royles making a good fist of his ongoing battle with Cotton, it looked for all the world that if any team were going to win, it would be Clipstone, especially since Oli Ryan had been sent on to freshen up the visitors’ attack in place of Scully who’d played well but had run himself to a standstill.
With four minutes remaining, Clipstone were dealt a cruel blow, when a Brooks free-kick from out the left, created mayhem in the visitors six-yard box and Luke Anderson got the touch that put the ball past Frances.
The Cobras pushed forward in an attempt to rescue a point.
Royle, Holmes, Wall and Walker exchanged a series of quick passes and when Brigg half cleared the ball as far as Ryan his shot deflected wide for a corner.
Barford held onto the flag kick under pressure from Ryan. Clipstone pressured the resilient back four of Brigg for most of the second half and it looked like an equaliser but unfortunately for the visitors a header from Salt hit the crossbar and then was cleared by the Zebras skipper.
In the dying moments, Salt nudged the ball forward to Ryan, who slipped it to Denton, but the angle wasn’t good for Clipstone’s top scorer and the ball got tangled up under Barford’s legs, who saved the day for Brigg with an unconventional, but effective save.
FT: Brigg Town 3 Clipstone 2
Clipstone: Frances, Royles, Salt, McGee, Randle, Walker, Nelthorpe, Holmes, Wall, Denton, Scully (Ryan 75). Subs not used: Colliver, Ball (GK).
Bookings: Brad Holmes 80, Damo Magee 86