Clipstone’s Division One title hopes were rocked again on Saturday when they lost 2-1 in their crunch NCEL match at leaders Pontefract Collieries after former Shirebrook hit man Aaron Moxam struck a brace.
Pontefract now have a five point lead over the Cobras, but Clipstone still have two games in hand and their title fate remains in their own hands.
It did not take long for the crowd of 91 to witness the opening goal as Pontefract took advantage of terrible weather in Yorkshire.
The wind was really strong blowing towards the bottom end goal with driving rain, and there would be no pot of gold at the end of Clipstone’s rainbow.
With only one minute and 20 seconds on the clock, Callum Mawby failed to control the ball and was quickly dispossessed 10 yards inside the Pontefract half.
Adam Hayton played a long ball against the wind right down the middle of the pitch.
With the wind playing havoc, Rich Mintoft could not get to the ball before former Moxam, who drove on to the edge of the area before unleashing a fierce shot on goal.
Keeper Nick Siddons got a hand to the ball, taking off most of the pace, but could not stop it going towards goal. Mintoft desperately attempted a sliding clearance off the line, but the referee’s assistant gave the goal.
Clipstone were struggling to cope with the wind behind them, with several players guilty of over-hitting the ball.
On 17 minutes the Cobras were trying to play with the ball at their feet, and started making good progress down the left flank with Ash Rawson running the midfield, just occasionally misplacing his final ball.
On 27 minutes Clipstone won their first corner of the game, Mawby over-hitting the set piece beyond everyone for a goal kick.
Two minutes later Pontefract were advancing towards the Clipstone goal. Eventually the ball was played to the feet of Moxam, who fell under the challenge of Stu Hill, and referee Mr Tyres showed the home frontman the game’s first yellow card for simulation.
Pontefract won a free kick on the right, midway in Clipstone’s half on 31 minutes which was hit towards the back post where Craig Roose placed a header towards goal, Siddons getting his angles right to save comfortably.
On 36 minutes Mawby attempted to clip the ball beyond Iwan Heeley, which caught the defender’s right hand inches outside the penalty area.
Matt Austin’s free kick, found the head of Jamie Smith, whose powerful header hit the ground and bounced up and over the bar.
Clipstone were having most of the possession at this point and three minutes into additional time were level.
They won a penalty as Rawson was tripped inside the area near the far post, Rob Paling firing the spot kick beyond the keeper and into the near post.
Manager Chris Millington decided to make his first change at the beginning of the second half as Tuesday’s hat-trick hero Blake Owen was replaced by Matty Ord.
The second half was just as tough an encounter as the first. The battle of midfield dominance was largely 50-50, which left only long range efforts of any worry for either keeper.
Nick Siddons was a little more concerned on 52 minutes after an audacious half-volley from 30 yards out and five yards in from the touch line saw the ball sizzle inches over the bar.
On 63 minutes Pontefract took the lead for a second time. When the ball was clipped into the middle from the right, a goalmouth scramble ensued, the ball eventually landing at Moxam’s feet, who calmly placed it beyond Siddons.
Clipstone still had their chances, and on 75 minutes Rawson showed determination to win back the ball on the right. He fired in his cross to the far post where Smith hit a firm header, unfortunately right into the arms of the Pontefract keeper.
The Cobras were still trying all they could to get something out of this game and Rawson hit a ball through the middle for substitute Luke Thomas to chase down.
Thomas was about to go through on goal when Heeley was adjudged to have bodychecked him just outside the penalty area.
Heeley was shown a straight red card for his trouble but Austin’s effort at goal was blocked by the wall and hacked away to safety as Pontefract took the spoils.
COBRAS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ash Rawson.