Late leveller denies Deeping top spot in enthralling title race
Deeping Rangers missed out on the chance to go top of the United Counties League Premier Division table after a late leveller denied them victory at Sleaford Town on Saturday.
Jason Kilbride’s 19th minute goal gave Rangers the lead and, despite the first half dismissal of Louis Hamilton, they looked set to extend their winning streak to six matches.
However, with just three minutes remaining, Luke Hollingworth scrambled home an equaliser to deny Deeping pole position in a keenly-contested title race.
Assistant boss Jack Marsden, who had seen his side snatch an injury-time winner on Tuesday night, was disappointed with the final outcome but full of praise for how his side had played on a heavy home playing surface.
Marsden said: “We’ve said that this side can play in any conditions and we’ve proved that again.
“We deserved to be 1-0 up and, after the sending off, we displayed a phenomenal work ethic.
“Goalkeeper Richard Stainsby hasn’t really had a serious save to make, but we haven’t dealt with a late ball into the box.
“Fair play to Sleaford because they stuck at it and we’re obviously disappointed to concede a goal so late on.
“Words surpass me really about how we feel, but it’s the double-ended sword of football.
“We had a great performance and result on Tuesday night, but we’ve had to deal with a different situation on Saturday.
“We did relatively well and, if we’d had 11 men on the pitch all game, then I’m confident that we would have got more out of it.”
Deeping made a bright start to proceedings and Kilbride steered an early effort wide from Luke Hunnings’ headed flick-on.
Scott Coupland just failed to connect with a Kilbride free-kick with the goal at his mercy before Stainsby produced a routine stop to deny Michael Hayden.
The deadlock was broken after 19 minutes with a slick passing move that has been the trademark of Deeping’s success this season.
Charlie Coulson and Hamilton linked up well to release the overlapping Dan Flack and his cross picked out Kilbride who converted from close range.
Rangers looked set to build on this advantage, however, the tide turned just before the half-hour mark when Hamilton reactily angrily to a foul and his actions resulted in a straight red.
Despite being a player light, the Clarets still looked the most likely to add to their tally as the game descended into a middle-of-the-park battle.
Liam Harper flashed a shot wide for the hosts before Scott Mooney, who was now ploughing a lone furrow up front for Deeping, saw two efforts competently dealt with by home custodian Garry Doran.
Tom Smith produced a good block to deny Archie Moyses while Kilbride saw a low effort blocked by Doran with Sleaford scrambling the rebound clear.
As the game entered the final throes, Sleaford launched more balls into the box as they searched for the elusive equaliser.
Stainsby palmed a corner onto the crossbar and then coolly caught the rebound, however, his dash off his line to punch clear under pressure in the 87th minute sparked a goalmouth melee that resulted in the ball falling kindly for Hollingworth to smash home the equaliser.
Substitute Michael Simpson fired a late effort wide as Rangers rallied, but they were unable to repeat Tuesday’s injury-time heroics.
The draw did extend Rangers’ unbeaten league run to seven games and it means they have taken 17 points from a possible 21.
However, the stalemate saw them drop to fourth place in the table with just two points separating the top five teams in what promises to an enthralling title race.
Deeping: Stainsby, Flack, Smith, Burton-Jones, Hunnings, Hollist, Hamilton, Coulson, Mooney (Schiavi), Coupland (Simpson), Kilbride. Not used: Dunn, Clay, Bircham.