A penalty save by Gary Doncaster ensured that the Cobras deservedly bring a point back from a tough away encounter on a warm afternoon in North Barnsley.
Following last week’s disappointing performance at lowly Harrogate Rail, manager Ian Cotton got the reaction he was seeking with a much better performance against 9th placed Athersley.
Clipstone once again grabbed an early lead when a 20-yard shot from the impressive Harry Bircumshaw was diverted by Ryan Hawley into the opposite corner of the goal, leaving Athersley ‘keeper Shaun Penn wrong-footed. 0-1
The Cobras created the majority of the chances in the first half but were unable to find the crucial second goal that their play deserved.
Top scorer Gareth Curtis generally had a quiet afternoon although a mazy run after 13 minutes saw him beat several defenders but Curtis then lost possession before he could get a shot in.
Midfielder Jake Egginton, who started the game in place of the injured Keenan Leeds, got himself in great positions on three occasions but was unable to deliver a quality finish.
On the half our mark Hawley showed great tenacity to win back possession near the area and found Egginton whose shot was straight at Penn.
A quick break by the Cobras five minutes later saw Luke Thomas find Bircumshaw who moved forward ten yards before playing the ball to Egginton on the edge of the box. Egginton then turned neatly inside the covering defender but was unable to find the target with the resulting shot.
The other chance of note for Clipstone came just before half time when a powerful Rob Paling header from a corner went just wide of the post.
The home side were restricted to two chances at either end of the half. Danny Cawley found himself one on one with Doncaster in the fourth minute but the Cobras’ keeper did well to get a hand to the ball and deflect it onto the post and then claim the rebound.
Doncaster then denied the same player in the 45th minute when he tipped a 20-yard shot around the post.
Rob Paling then did well on the stroke of half time to dispossess Kai Hancock as he burst through on goal. Hancock, Athersley’s top scorer, picked up an injury as a result and was substituted at half time.
Half Time 0-1
The home side dominated possession in the second half with the Cobras apparently content to sit back and soak up the pressure, whilst looking to catch Athersley out on the break.
A coming together on 52 minutes between the Cobras’ Keir Webster and Athersley’s Cawley saw both players cautioned although the home player was lucky to remain on the pitch as he appeared to kick out at Webster.
Clipstone’s best chance of the half came in the 63rd minute when a corner from Curtis was met by Luke Thomas and his powerful header was only kept out by a terrific low save by Penn.
Athersley were awarded a penalty in the 65th minute for a challenge on the edge of the area. The referee originally awarded a free kick but changed his mind and decided the challenge was in the box after speaking with his assistant. It looked a soft penalty and justice was done when Cobras’ man of the match Gary Doncaster got down low to his left and pushed Liam Owen’s spot kick round the post. It was the ‘keepers second penalty save in recent weeks.
The home side continued to press forward and deservedly grabbed an equaliser with just over ten minutes remaining when Cawley got between two defenders to meet a deep cross from the right hand side and his firm header gave Doncaster no chance.
In the end as draw was probably the right result and it represents another step in the right direction for Ian Cotton’s team. After the game the manager commented that “we should have had the game won at half time. It was a harsh penalty and a great save from Gary Doncaster. We’ll take 1-1 but are still disappointed as we should have been out of sight at half time”.
Full Time 1-1