With leaders AFC Emley in FA Vase action, a brace of goals apiece for Jamie Smith and Dan Wood hauled Clipstone level with Emley on points after a 4-0 NCEL Division One at Rossington Main on Saturday.
Only goal difference keeps Chris Millington’s men off the summit after a game that had great skill, late drama, a 45-minute delay for a serious injury, early substitutions and contentious refereeing decisions.
Clipstone enjoyed much of the early possession, but Rossington did break away in the second minute and won themselves a corner on the left. It was not a great delivery but did cause Clipstone a problem as the ball bounced just before the near post and Clipstone’s Chris Baugh stooped to clear with his head.
But, with the ball not bouncing evenly it spun into his midriff, all of the Rossington players appealing for handball, which fell on deaf ears from the referee, and Clipstone cleared at the second attempt.
On eight minutes Rossington were on the break again and won another corner on the left as Callum Mawby intercepted a cross from their No 11. The corner was swung in and cleared to the edge of the penalty area where Tom Hyde collected the ball and smashed the ball at goal from 20 yards out and beat everything but the crossbar.
Matty Ord ran at the Rossington defenders once again on 12 minutes. This time he cut back and swung in a pinpoint cross right onto the unmarked Smith, who nodded past keeper Jordan Wildey and grabbed his 18th goal of the campaign.
This was the turning point of the game as Clipstone grew in confidence and started to play the ball around more easily.
On 23 minutes it was Wood’s turn to cause havoc after he released Josh Gibson to run inside the box.
The ball seemed to hit his hand just before he crossed hard and low to the penalty spot where Smith was ready to control and smash the ball back across the keeper and into the far corner.
Everyone was surprised that the nearside assistant referee did not see it, but Smith was happy with his 19th goal of the season.
On 27 minutes Smith was back in the middle of the action as he was pulled back and Clipstone were awarded a direct free kick 25 yards out to the left edge of the area.
Rob Paling stepped up and fired around the wall, Rossington’s keeper getting down well to save and keep the hosts in the game.
On 42 minutes Rossington’s Calum Coburn landed awkwardly after competing for a header. There was no contact made with any other player. He complained about a serious back problem and a ambulance was called for and the game was held up until paramedics arrived 45 minutes later.
At the restart Daniel Marquis replaced Coburn with two minutes left of the first half plus an additional three from the referee, and half-time arrived for another 15-minute break.
As with most games at this level, the first few minutes of the second half were a cagey affair. But it did not take Clipstone long to get back into the flow of things, and on 52 minutes Smith probably should have had his hat-trick.
Callum Mawby’s effort was only parried by the keeper. The ball seemed to be in the air for ages and the unmarked Smith headed towards goal where keeper Wildey did well to get himself back up in time to make the double save.
Clipstone were still on the ascendancy on 65 minutes with a great team ethic which must have pleased manager Millington. And Wood, wide on the right, then came inside his defender and rifled a shot from 18 yards out, curled into the far corner of goal to extend Clipstone’s lead.
Just one minute later Wood again picked up the ball out wide right and, with a shot that would have graced any ground in the country, curled another with real pace around the keeper and into the far corner of the net from 25 yards out.
Wood wasn’t finished either. Just before the final whistle he won the ball 35 yards out in a central position, tricked himself past one defender then won a race to the ball with the host keeper, whose momentum brought down Wood inside the area.
He had obviously denied a goalscoring opportunity and the referee had no hesitation in showing a straight red card to the keeper.
Rossington captain Lee Holmes took over the gloves and keeper’s shirt as Smith placed the ball on the penalty spot and placed his shot low to the keeper’s left, Holmes doing very well to deny Smith his hat-trick.