There was to be no fairytale start for new Shirebrook Town manager Kevin Gee as the honours ended even in the big Mansfield derby on Saturday, the home side having to settle for a point from a tightly contested 1-1 draw with visitors Clipstone at Langwith Road.
Gee took over during the week from former manager Julian Watts and it was always going to be a tough start for him against his new side’s near neighbours and rivals.
But there was very little to separate the sides until Clipstone broke the deadlock on 18 minutes, Carl Haslam heading the ball into the empty net from 12 yards after Steve Carty’s free kick from the right had tempted Shirebrook keeper Joe McCormack to come off his line.
It looked to be a soft goal to concede, but Shirebrook soon made amends when they hit back just before the half hour through top scorer Aaron Moxam, who neatly finished off a typical mazy run of his by firing the ball from the edge of the box across Clipstone keeper Ed Eley and into the net just inside the foot of the left hand post.
The game could have gone either way after that, but Shirebrook had the advantage of the slope in the second half and Danny Booth was on target two minutes after the restart, although his 18-yard shot was weak and easy for Eley to deal with.
However, Clipstone’s first corner of the game three minutes later had Shirebrook in a bit of a flap, unable to clear their lines from Haslam’s flag kick to the crowded near post from the right until McCormack dropped to smother the loose ball and snuff out the danger.
And McCormack was called into near post action again on 70 minutes, this time punching the ball around the post for a corner after Carl Snowden beat two markers on the right and whipped a stinging shot in from the edge of the box.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook got the bit between their teeth again as the game entered the final quarter-hour and substitute Tom Mullen went close, forcing a corner on the left that might have produced a goal from the half clearance, but Steve Wankiewicz just missed the target from 16 yards.
A minute after that, Danny Bacon rattled the left hand post with a superbly struck volley from 20 yards on the right, after the ball was served up to him off a cross into the box from the left that Clipstone failed to deal with.
Moxam was the next to go close for the home side, just wide of the far angle with a curling shot from the corner of the box on the right.
Ross Henshaw had every Shirebrook supporter holding their breath expectantly from Thompson’s corner from the left on 88 minutes with a near post header that looped up and over Eley, but the home side were again denied by the frame of the goal, and the ball was cleared.
However, Clipstone very nearly had the final word a minute later, a magical dipping effort from substitute Gavin King clipping the top of the Shirebrook crossbar from a 25-yard half-volley that took everyone by surprise, after Eley’s long clearance had picked him out in space on the right.
Next up, Shirebrook stay at Langwith Road on Tuesday night when the visitors will be North Lincolnshire promotion hopefuls Cleethorpes Town for a 7.45pm kick-off.
That’s followed next Saturday with a short trip to Teversal for Shirebrook’s first away local derby of the season (3pm).
SHIREBROOK TOWN: McCormack, Shaw, Claridge, Booth (Bachner 81), Henshaw, Wankiewicz, Bacon, Getliff, Moxam, Wiltshire (Mullen 70), Thompson. Subs not used: Rowbotham, Dickinson, Tolley.
CLIPSTONE: Eley, Paling, Shaw, R Austin, Pride, M Austin, Edwards, Carty (Hillier 75), Snowden (King 81), Haslam (Watson 63), Millington. Subs not used: Armstrong, Hillier.
REFEREE: David Evans of South Yorkshire.