Thirteen has a reputation for being an unlucky number, and it proved to be just that for Shirebrook Town as the Langwith Road side’s impressive 12-game unbeaten run came to a disappointing end with a narrow 4-3 away defeat at Bradford-based side Eccleshill United on Saturday.
The pitch was extremely heavy and verging on unplayable in a couple of places prior to kick-off, but the improving home side - with a raft of new signings - would have been keen for the game to go ahead, whilst the visitors must have been hoping they’d take some points away to keep them in touch with the sides leading the NCEL Division One table.
Shirebrook were once again without injured striker Dan Williams, and midfielder Adam Walker (suspended) and defender Rob Ludlam (unavailable) were also missing from the squad.
And the game got off to a miserable start for Shirebrook keeper Ben Hallam who got a soaking from the wet pitch, aquaplaning across his 18-yard box in trying to prevent a corner soon after play got under way. And that must have made it a very uncomfortable first half for him in the cold, biting wind at the exposed end of the ground.
Meanwhile, Eccleshill tried to make the most of the early pressure they applied, but Shirebrook almost took the lead from Tow Rowbotham’s in-swinging corner from the right with less than ten minutes gone that had to be cleared off the line.
And it was the visitors who seized the advantage when Jake Vernon put them in front seven minutes later with a fierce, rising shot from the edge of the box, which home keeper Karl Martens could only parry up and into his own net.
Shirebrook went close again four minutes after that from another of Rowbotham’s troublesome corners, but the visitors surrendered their lead far too easily a minute later when Eccleshill’s hat-trick hero of the afternoon Alex Rouse was allowed to open his account with a low strike from 20 yards that beat Hallam to his right.
The home side were right back in it, although Shirebrook pressed again and Rowbotham went close with another corner on the half-hour before Sam Eckhardt tested Martens with a low 30-yard shot a minute after that.
Nevertheless, Eccleshill almost had the last word before the interval with a dipping 30-yard drive from Jae Lee that bounced awkwardly into Hallam’s chest. The rebound could have gone anywhere, but Shirebrook central defender Brandon Cardwell was quick to react and the loose ball was cleared.
But the visitors were the first to show after the break when skipper Jack Barnett made work for Martens with a low 22-yard free-kick two minutes after the restart that found its way through the defensive wall.
Three minutes after that Doug Stevenson tested Hallam at the other end from 25 yards, but there was nothing the Shirebrook keeper could do nine minutes later when Rouse cut in from the left and fired Eccleshill into the lead with his second goal.
In truth, the goal was a bit of a gift because of the visitors’ poor defending, but the home side’s joy evaporated four minutes after that when Stevenson was penalised for a hand-ball in the box and Jason Bradley fired into the Eccleshill net to level the scores at 2-2 from the spot.
Shirebrook could have pushed on from there, but instead the home side was gifted another goal, this time from Lee’s corner on the left which Rouse put in unmarked from close range to complete his hat trick on 70 minutes.
It was a blow for the visitors, but worse was soon to come when substitute Ricardo Cubillo doubled the home side’s advantage just three minutes later with a well-placed low shot from the edge of the box after Marcus Edwards picked him out with a square pass from the right.
That might have been game over, but Shirebrook hit back two minutes later, Bradley grabbing himself a brace with the visitors’ third goal, which came after he forced the ball into the home net from Rowbotham’s corner on the right.
And for the final 15 minutes Shirebrook threw everything they’d got into trying to get something from the game, but Eccleshill managed to hang on in an exciting finish to deny the visitors even a share of the points in the end.
After the game Shirebrook manager Mark Shaw said he was very disappointed with the result: “We conceded three sloppy goals today. I don’t think the pitch helped, but we could have been better defensively and we could have created more clear-cut chances.”
“The whole group’s disappointed, it’s not just me. The players are disappointed. All they want to do is play well and win, and they’re disappointed they haven’t done either.”
“It’s the first game of a big month and we’ve had a defeat, and we can’t afford to have any more. The players know that, so we’ll see how they respond. We’re going to have to crack on now.”
Shirebrook Town travel to local rivals Clipstone Welfare on Tuesday night for a 7.45pm kick-off at the Lido Ground, before returning home next Saturday at 3 o’clock when North Yorkshire side Knaresborough Town make their first ever visit to Langwith Road.
Eccleshill United: Martens, Roote, Lamb, Pastuhov, O’Keefe (Esparze 87), McCabe (Cubillo 68), Rouse, Stevenson, Edwards, Stone, Lee. Subs not used: Bower, Lyle.
Shirebrook Town: Hallam, Booth (Lemon 75), Rowbotham, Cottingham, Timons, Cardwell, Barnett, Forbes, Eckhardt (Mullen 74), Bradley, Vernon (Rowley 61). Subs not used: Gee, Jordan.
Referee: Jason Knowles (West Yorkshire)