A smash-and-grab raid by fellow title-chasers Bridlington Town left Clipstone cursing their misfortune in their first action of 2016 in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League, Premier Division.
With most matches in the division postponed because of the wet weather, Clipstone had a golden opportunity to burst into the top three. And they created more than enough chances after being camped in the Bridlington half for most of the second period.
But the visitors returned to the Yorkshire coast with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a solitary 54th minute goal, that lifted them into third place instead and condemned the Cobras to their sixth league defeat this term at The Worksop Van Hire Stadium.
They now face an extraordinary run of eight games on the trot away from home, where they remain unbeaten, starting with a trip to Liversedge this coming Saturday. Their next home fixture is not until Saturday, February 13.
“It was the first time this season we didn’t get what we deserved,” despaired manager Jas Colliver. “The performance was really good, especially at the back, where we loooked solid. Going forward, we let ourselves down. We had loads of chances, all gagging to be tapped in, but we drew a blank.”
Colliver named the same 11 for the third game running, with early chances falling to Nicky Walker, who shot wide from a pinpoint crossfield ball by James Ashmore, Oli Ryan, whose effort was blocked by Bridlington ‘keeper James Hitchcock, and Brad Holmes, who drove narrowly wide.
The well-organised visitors had moments of their own, but Clipstone called most of the tune. Walker forced Hitchcock into a one-handed save and the first half closed with same player advancing towards the box and unleashing a shot that was bravely blocked by defender Chris Jenkinson.
Undeterred, Bridlington grabbed the winning goal nine minutes into the second half. Benn Lewis showed real determination to meet a long cross from left and plant a perfectly-placed downward header past ‘keeper Steve Hernandez.
Inspired by man-of-the-match Damian Magee, Clipstone responded by pegging the visitors back. Substitute Pat Lindley’s ball flashed across the face of goal and fellow sub Alec Denton shot wide after good work by Ashmore and Liam Royles. Denton’s ideal cross found Walker, whose header was blocked by a defender and when the loose ball fell to Lindley, his drive also struck a Bridlington man.
As the game moved into injury-time, Ashmore delivered a fine ball into a packed area, where it eventually fell to Chris Salt. But he was unable to find a way to pull the trigger just a couple of yards out.
CLIPSTONE LINE-UP -- Hernandez/ Royles, Randle, Holmes, Salt, Magee, Smith, Walker, Ryan (Lindley 66), Ashmore, Somes (Denton 52). SUBS NOT USED: Wall, Bates, Francis. CROWD: 102.