Title-chasing AFC Mansfield lost their 100 per cent Central Midlands League home record in a frustrating 0-0 North Division draw with mid-table Bentley Colliery on Saturday.
The Bulls could not break down a resolute Bentley back line and could have even lost the game in the final minutes.
Bentley started as they meant to go on, packing their defence and allowing the home side plenty of possession in front of them.
For the first 20 minutes nothing of significance found its way through to keeper Mike Teale.
Dean Rick fired an effort over the bar on 22 minutes, which was to be his last touch, succumbing to an injury sustained in a one-on-one with Teale five minutes earlier.
On the half-hour Teale saved with his feet from Joe Naylor as AFC Mansfield pushed for an opening goal. Then Darren Bettison saw his 20 yard effort drift wide of the far post a couple of minutes later.
Bentley continued to block everything that was thrown at them and the half ended goalless.
The second half started much the same and Bentley had just about given up any thoughts of any meaningful attacks, electing to sit and wait for the next home side foray into their half.
AFC were, however, taking too much time in building these attacks, allowing Bentley to set themselves in readiness for the onslaught.
Sam Holmes thought he had broken the deadlock on 57 minutes after a quick one-two with Joe Naylor, but his 30 yard drive came back off the post with Teale well beaten.
Danny Naylor beat Teale on the hour mark only to see his goal bound shot turned around the post by Phil Doran.
Both Phil Buxton and Carl Haslam missed chances in the space of a minute on 67 minutes as the Bulls began to look a little edgy.
Buxton then put in a curling corner that Joe Naylor got a head to, but his looping header landed on top of the bar on 70 minutes.
There was more woe for the home side after 78 minutes as first Haslam had his effort parried by Teale and Steve McGurk’s follow-up came back off the post.
A rare break on 80 minutes for Bentley saw Dan Read have a low drive saved by Dale Sheppard. Sheppard’s match was about to come to an abrupt end. Having come over the halfway line to take a free kick when Bentley broke he was forced to handle just outside his box to deny a goal scoring opportunity.
This left referee Steve Abbott with little choice but to send the keeper off.
Steve McGurk took the keepers shirt but the resulting free kick came to nothing.
The final heartache for the Bulls came in the final minute.
McGurk knocked a superb free kick from the halfway line into the box and Mark Carter headed past Teale.
Unfortunately, Naylor, who was running in, couldn’t get out of the way of a certain goal and managed to ensure Bentley’s clean sheet by clearing the ball off the line.
Both teams will have the chance to score in two weeks time as AFC Mansfield travel to Bentley for the return fixture.
Considering they have scored 117 goals in the league this season it was a disappointing day for the Mansfield side. However, the fate of the league championship is still in their hands.
Elsewhere, Lee Easom came back to haunt Glapwell again as his two first-half goals set his improving Ollerton Town side on their way to a 3-0 victory at Hall Corner.
Easom, who hit 13 goals in 17 games for Glapwell two seasons ago, notched his fifth goal in two games against them this season after his earlier hat-trick for AFC Mansfield back in September.
Glapwell had the first chance when Derrick Miller crossed from the right to Jake Wharton at the back post, but there was nobody in the middle to take advantage of Wharton’s header back across goal.
Three minutes later, Ollerton took the lead when Matt Timson laid the ball off to Lee Easom, who beat a defender before thumping an effort into the top corner from the edge of the area.
The Timson/Easom partnership worked again for the visitors on 28 minutes when Timson flicked a cross on to Easom, who was unmarked at the back post, and he finished brilliantly into the bottom corner.
Glapwell had a chance to halve the deficit before half-time, but Ash Barber fired well over after being played in by Jake Wharton.
Five minutes into the second period, Ollerton made the game safe with a third goal as Timson crossed for Aaron Norman who out-jumped Ryan Hopkins to head home from six yards out.
Timson was then denied by Hopkins before Ross Murcott made two goal-line clearances to deny Aaron Norman, while at the other end the closest Glapwell went to making a game of it saw James Whitfield fire into the sidenetting and Murcott hit an effort straight at visiting keeper Simon Smith.