Frustrated AFC Mansfield slipped to their first defeat in seven games when falling to a solitary goal away to hard-working Garforth Town.
The improvement shown in recent weeks had enabled the newly-promoted Bulls to climb to halfway in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League, Premier Division table. But without influential duo Ryan Williams and Gary Bradshaw, their run was halted by a Garforth side sitting just below them.
AFC had no complaints about the goal, which came in the 28th minute when Mitch Hamilton got to the line and drove a low cross to the far post where Jack McMurrough tapped in from a yard.
But like the hosts, they did come away feeling aggrieved by the performance of referee Andrew Williams, who booked eight players in a contest that hardly warranted so many cards and also disallowed what appeared to be a legitimate equaliser.
AFC had their moments, especially in the opening half. Early on, Danny Naylor twice went close, including with a dipping effort that beat Garforth ‘keeper Paul Magreen but also cleared the bar.
And although the Bulls suffered a blow in the 15th minute when defender Joe Austin had to come off with slight concussion after a clash of heads, the visitors had golden chances either side of the home side’s goal.
First Grant Allott headed wide with only the ‘keeper to beat, and then Jimmy Ghaichem hit a post after a fine lay-off by Lynton Karkach.
At the other end, AFC survived two scares as a short backpass by skipper Chris Timons gave Garforth a chance that went wide, and then Hamilton raced past three defenders for a 12-yard shot that Jason White turned round a post.
In the second half, AFC had to wait until the hour mark before posing a threat. But Ollie Fearon drove inches wide, with the ‘keeper beaten, after racing clear, and then he supplied a cross that Karkach headed home, only for the goal to be controversially ruled out for offside by a linesman’s flag.
Garforth adopted an Alamo-style of defence for the final ten minutes. But although both Allott and Fearon again went close for AFC, the score remained 1-0.
AFC MANSFIELD LINE-0UP -- White/ Austin (Dudley 15), Plummer, Allott, Timons, D’Laryea, Karkach, Patterson, Fearon, Naylor (Annable 70), Ghaichem (Madin 78). SUBS NOT USED: Nicholson, Wright.