Shirebrook Town slumped to their heaviest league defeat of the season at a very wet Langwith Road on Saturday, comprehensively beaten 4-0 by Bottesford Town, the win enough to propel the in-form Scunthorpe-based side to the top of the NCEL Division One table.
The heavens had opened half-an-hour before kick-off and, on a day of atrocious playing conditions when superior finishing would prove to be the major difference between the two sides, Shirebrook were without leading scorer Aaron Moxam, out of the side serving the first of a three-match ban after having been harshly red-carded two weeks earlier in the away defeat at Pontefract Collieries.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook would have still been hoping to build on the 3-0 home win over Hall Road Rangers seven days before and the first real chance fell to the home side just two minutes into the game, but Reece Twell was denied by Bottesford keeper Leigh Herrick with only him to beat after the young striker was put in by strike-partner Grant Ryan’s through-ball.
However, the visitors went close from Terry Barwick’s free-kick on the edge of the box two minutes later before taking the lead from the penalty spot with 12 minutes gone after Shirebrook keeper Sam Andrew was adjudged to have brought Bottesford skipper Danny Boulton down in the box.
Playmaker Barwick stepped up for the kick and he made no mistake this time, smashing the ball into the Shirebrook net, high to Andrew’s left.
That was a setback for the home side, but they had chances to get themselves back into the game, the best of these coming just after the half-hour when Twell’s cross from the left picked Ryan out at the back post, but Herrick again was equal to the header from six yards.
That proved significant as Shirebrook fell further behind a minute later, Nathan Watson beating left full-back Ricky Hanson before cutting into the box from the right and firing the ball over Andrew at the near post to double the visitors’ advantage on 33 minutes.
Soon after that the game threatened to boil over when Bottesford’s Martin Pembleton went down all too easily, clutching his head after what looked to be an innocuous push by Shirebrook’s Jordan Hall after the two had squared up to each other on the halfway line.
Players from both sides wanted to get involved, but South Yorkshire referee Peter Henger and his two assistants soon regained control with both Pembleton and keeper Herrick yellow-carded, the former presumably for his theatricals in the original incident and the latter probably for his unnecessary involvement during the aftermath.
Thankfully normality returned, but it was Bottesford who finished the half the stronger with Mike Thompson testing Andrew with a shot from the corner of the box on the left with just over five minutes to go, before Thompson headed the visitors into a three-goal lead going into the interval off Pembleton’s cross into the box from wide on the left, two minutes into time added on at the end of the half.
Undoubtedly Shirebrook then had a mountain to climb, but the home side piled on the pressure from the start of the second half and Twell should have reduced the deficit just nine minutes in when the ball fell to him off Hanson’s corner on the right, but it was on his less favoured right foot and his 16-yard shot went wide of the right hand angle of the Bottesford goal frame.
Nevertheless Shirebrook kept the pressure on, although it was the visitors who found the net again against the run of play as the rain began to pour down once more, Boulton’s dipping snapshot on 76 minutes from the corner of the box on the right squirming through Andrew’s hands at the near post and into the top corner of his goal.
The game then looked all over bar the shouting, and in truth it was, although Shirebrook central defender Kris Witcombe might have pulled one back on 81 minutes, before Hall very nearly scored a consolation goal for the home side at the near post with a shot from wide on the right with four minutes to go.
Next up Shirebrook travel into North East Lincolnshire on Saturday to take on third-placed promotion hopefuls Cleethorpes Town, who play their home games at The Bradley Football Development Centre in Grimsby. Kick-off is at 3pm.
SHIREBROOK TOWN: Andrew, Pride, Hanson, Getliff (Bacon 70), Henshaw, Witcombe, Brown, Hall, Ryan (Rowley 55), Booth, Twell. Subs not used: Claridge, Gregory, M Camm.
BOTTESFORD TOWN: Herrick, Spall, Smith, Johnson, Brackenbury, Barwick, Watson (Garth 64), Pembleton, Boulton (Rotherham 78), Bridge, Thompson. Subs not used: Corbett, Sharp.
REFEREE: Peter Henger of South Yorkshire.