Shirebrook Town came from a goal behind to bag a point with a 1-1 draw on the road at second-placed Eccleshill United in Toolsport NCEL Division One on Saturday.
And the Bradford-based home side went into the game looking for their third successive win, whilst the visitors were hoping to bounce back from a narrow midweek defeat at home to Worsbrough Bridge Athletic.
But, with an ever-growing list of injured players, keeper Liam Flynn (Staveley Miners Welfare) and defender Jordan Claxton (Rainworth Miners Welfare) had to be recruited late in the week by Shirebrook manager Julian Watts to bolster his side ahead of the game.
The Rapid Solicitors Stadium playing surface looked well, but some of the Shirebrook players were finding it difficult to keep their feet early in the game and Eccleshill were the first to show, Austin Hart testing Flynn with a 14-yard strike on eight minutes.
And ten minutes later Ryan Jones went close for the home side with a 22-yard free-kick on the left that whistled just over Flynn’s crossbar.
Shirebrook’s first real chance of the game came eight minutes after that, Claxton’s ball down the left picking out Aaron Moxam, who then cut into the box before unleashing a stinging 16-yard shot that Eccleshill keeper Ryan Smith could only push out for a corner at the near post.
Nothing came from Sean Dickinson’s kick from the left that followed, but current NCEL Division One top-scorer Marcus Edwards ought to have done much better for Eccleshill at the other end with 10 minutes of the half left to go when a harmless-looking backpass took a bit of a bobble and Shirebrook keeper Flynn sliced his clearance.
The miskick fell nicely for Edwards in the box on the left and he had time to take a touch, but then he somehow scuffed his right-foot shot and the ball rolled wide of the near upright, possibly sparing Flynn’s blushes as it did so.
And so the first half ended goalless, but Eccleshill took the lead nine minutes after the restart when Shirebrook failed to clear their lines.
Edwards was well placed to capitalise and he whipped a cross in from the edge of the penalty area on the right, and the ball took a wicked deflection to Hart, who simply had to stroke it into the open net from eight yards out with keeper Flynn and his defenders caught flat-footed at the near post.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook looked to hit back and Ben Cobley went close on 67 minutes with a ball lofted in from deep on the right that looked to be dropping in under the Eccleshill crossbar.
But home keeper Smith had it well covered and soon after that his opposite number Flynn was in action at the other end, thrusting out his left leg to send the ball for a corner when Edwards looked certain to score from 16 yards, one-on-one with the Shirebrook keeper after he latched onto a ball over the top down the right that beat everyone.
However, two minutes later Shirebrook levelled with some smart one-touch football that began on the right and ended with second half substitute Danny Wiltshire working himself some space on the left of the Eccleshill box before hitting the ball with the outside of his right foot from 16 yards past keeper Ryan Smith and into the net.
That well-worked goal gave Shirebrook the edge, and they were perhaps unlucky not to take all three points from the game when they had a couple of good shouts for penalties waved away late on by Cambridgeshire referee Alan Marshall, one for a handball and the other when Moxam was brought down in the box.
Frustrations boiled over two minutes into time added on at the end when Moxam clattered into Eccleshill keeper Smith for a 50-50 ball on the edge of the area.
It looked simply to be Moxam’s momentum that caused it, but defender Connor Shefte took exception to the challenge and some pushing and shoving followed, with both players seeing a yellow card from the referee for their trouble.
Shirebrook return to Langwith Road on Saturday for the first-ever visit of Barnsley-based league newcomers and current division leaders Shaw Lane Aquaforce. Kick-off is at 3pm.
And that’s followed next Tuesday by the quick return of Worsbrough Bridge Athletic, the sides meeting at Langwith Road for the second time in two weeks, this time to decide which of them will progress to the Second Round of the League Cup. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.