Shirebrook Town’s first game of the New Year finished honours even, but the Langwith Road side twice had to come from behind to take a share of the spoils with a battling 2-2 NCEL draw against North Yorkshire visitors Knaresborough Town, thanks to an Aaron Moxam penalty braceon Saturday.
It was only seven days since the two sides last met and both had points to prove after Shirebrook lifted all three points from the previous game with a fiercely contested 2-1 win at Manse Lane.
Shirebrook were the first to show, just inches from taking an early lead when Grant Ryan headed Ricky Hanson’s free kick from the left onto the near upright from eight yards, barely five minutes into the game.
But Knaresborough soon settled and they themselves went close eight minutes later as the home side struggled to clear Graham Whitehead’s free kick into the box from the left, the half-cleared ball finally falling kindly for Will Lenehan, who fired just over the Shirebrook crossbar from 25 yards.
Meanwhile, Shirebrook top scorer Moxam had been finding it hard to find space, but on 25 minutes he worked Knaresborough keeper Weston Murau with a turn and volley strike from the corner of the box on the right, and then again four minutes after that with a snapshot from the opposite corner of the visitors’ penalty area.
However, it was Knaresborough who broke the deadlock, skipper Liam Gray forcing his way through on the edge of the Shirebrook box before toe-poking the ball from 16 yards past home keeper Sam Andrew to give the visitors a precious 1-0 lead on 32 minutes for them to take into the interval.
That’s just how it had been a week before, and, just like the last meeting, Shirebrook back came out all guns blazing for the second half and, within a couple of minutes of the restart, Ryan almost took the paint off the top of the Knaresborough crossbar with a sizzling shot from two yards outside the box after cutting in from the left.
The early pressure soon paid off when Jamie Brown was brought down by Murau after cutting into the visitors’ box from the right.
The keeper got a yellow card for his misdemeanour and Moxam made it count with a sweetly-struck spot kick high to Murau’s right that put Shirebrook back on level terms on 55 minutes.
The home side looked favourites after that, but four corners and almost constant pressure on the Knaresborough goal over the next 20 minutes came to nothing.
The home side were left to rue that when the visitors took the lead again against the run of play, defender David Thomas left unmarked with a simple near post header from Whitehead’s in-swinging corner whipped in from the right putting them 2-1 up with 15 minutes of the game remaining.
It was a blow for Shirebrook and Whitehead worked home keeper Andrew three minutes later as the Langwith Road side struggled to regain their earlier composure.
But that’s just what the home side did and defender Danny Claridge won them their second penalty of the game with four minutes to go; felled by a lunging challenge as he cut into the Knaresborough box from the right.
Once again Moxam stepped up, but this time Murau saved the kick after guessing it would be going low to the opposite side of the goal chosen for the first.
However, the assistant referee indicated an infringement and, after a brief discussion between the two officials, the referee ordered the penalty to be re-taken for encroachment by the keeper.
Murau clearly wasn’t happy with this and he kicked the ball away in dissent.
That was just about the worst thing the keeper could have done because out came his second yellow card of the game and he cheaply got his marching orders before the spot kick could be re-taken.
But now the whole of the Knaresborough team weren’t happy, and it took a while for everything to settle down after that.
When it did, Moxam made no mistake this time, easily beating goalscorer Thomas, who was deputising for Murau in the visitors’ goal, to level the scores again on 88 minutes. That was no more than Shirebrook deserved from the game.
Next up, Shirebrook travel to West Yorkshire on Saturday to take on Pontefract Collieries (3pm).
SHIREBROOK TOWN: Andrew, Gregory, Claridge, Ryan (Clarke 74), Henshaw, Witcombe, Booth, Getliff, Moxam, Brown, Hanson. Subs not used: M Camm, Bacon, Hall, Diuk.
KNARESBOROUGH TOWN: Murau, Thomas, Radcliffe, Lenehan, Duerden, Gray, Eustance (Clayton 64), Bradley, Heath, Littlefair, Whitehead. Subs not used: Stansfield, Wright.
REFEREE: David Evans of South Yorkshire.