Out-of-luck Stones suffer home defeat despite Clarke’s cracker
Blackstones missed out on the chance to close the gap on second-placed Raunds despite a stunning strike from joint player-boss Lee Clarke in Saturday’s United Counties League Division One clash.
Clarke’s cracker had given Stones the advantage after 16 minutes, but they were pegged back by a controversial spot kick.
And, despite Ben Porter hitting the crossbar with two free-kicks after the break, the Shopmates snared a winner just past the hour mark to maintain their pursuit of honours.
After an even opening that had seen prolific Raunds frontman Ty Clark denied by a tidy save from home custodian Aaron Bellairs, it was Blackstones who made the first breakthrough.
A corner to the back post was picked up by Rikki Wilmer who did well to create an opening and crossed for Clarke who acrobatically converted with a sublime overhead kick.
The goal gave the home side the impetus and Danny Barker was inches away from a second with a fierce shot that flew just past the far top corner.
Clark blazed over when well placed for visitors who then had goalkeeper Chris Jones yellow-carded after he raced from his area and took out Barker with wild mistimed lunge.
Jones De Sousa clipped another effort just wide before Raunds were handed a fortuitious way back into the contest.
A goalmouth scramble saw the ball hit into a cluster of Stones players from close range with referee Robert Goldstone seemingly deciding it had struck a hand and Clark confidently converted the resultant spot kick.
The equaliser handed the initiative back to Raunds and Bellairs did well to deny James Russell after a slick Shopmates move had cut Stones open.
Stones though held out until the break and resumed on the front foot with Andy Boome having early penalty appeals turned down in the second half after going over following goalkeeper Jones’ challenge.
Porter floated a free-kick against the crossbar before a surging run and shot from Joe Papworth went just over.
Raunds then took the lead just past the hour mark when a cross was played to the back post where marauding full-back Fred Devereaux finished with aplomb.
The visitors then came close to adding a third, but Bellairs produced a tremendous finger-tip save to keep out Clark’s header.
The home goalkeeper again well to deny Clark after he had broken clear before Porter’s late effort summed up Stones’ luck on the day as another decent free-kick clipped the top of the crossbar.
Blackstones: Bellairs, Peasgood, Bates, Wilmer, Simpson, Boome, Porter, Papworth, De Sousa, Clarke, Barker. Subs not used: Chambers, Crockett, Carter, Edmondson, Hands.
Bourne’s Division One match at Irchester and Oakham’s home clash with Bugbrooke were both postponed due to waterlogged pitches.