Stones let three-goal half-time slip in managerial bow for bosses
Blackstones let a three-goal half-time advantage slip as a Huntingdon fightback forced new joint bosses Lee Clarke and Daniel French to settle for a share of the spoils in their first match at the Lincoln Road helm.
Stones got off to the best possible start when Jones de Sousa put them ahead inside the opening minute and then Clarke doubled that advantage on the quarter-hour mark.
It looked like game over when Ben Porter curled home a free-kick before the interval, but Huntingdon were an entirely different proposition after the break.
Substitute Glenn Spearink reduced the arrears on the hour mark and then added his and Huntingdon’s second 10 minutes later.
Spearink had another goal disallowed before Chae Simons struck in the dying throes to leave Stones’ new management team deflated.
Clarke said: “If ever there was a game of two halves then that was it.
“Our performance dropped off by a few per cent in the second half and that was the difference.
“We were no longer on the front foot and, when they got a goal back, it has given them a lift and our game management wasn’t good enough.
“It had been a dream start. We had tempo and high energy, but half-time has probably killed us a little bit.
“Psycologically you think you’ve won the game and we didn’t show the same urgency in the second half.
“Fair play to Huntingdon though. They could have given it up at half-time, but they kept going, made life hard for us and they deserve some credit.
“It does feel like a defeat though and it’s frustrating to have not won the game from the position we were in.”
Clarke took his place in the starting line-up with top scorer Liam Harrold unavailable due to a long-standing commitment while Danny Barker and Scott Musgrove were both missing through injury.
It took Stones just 40 seconds to break the deadlock as Porter’s perfectly-weighed through ball released de Sousa who finished with aplomb past stand-in Huntingdon goalkeeper Richard Baines.
The visitors almost equalised shortly after when Liam Rodden glanced a header against the Blackstones crossbar.
It was the home side who doubled their lead though after 15 minutes as Porter again set de Sousa free and he unselfishly squared the ball for Clarke to score from close range.
Baines did well to deny both Ben Easson and de Sousa with smart saves as Stones threatened at will.
They added a third after 36 minutes when Porter curled home a cracking free kick after Easson had been fouled on the edge of the box by Odie Wason.
Easson then had a header cleared off the line while Andy Boome fizzed a fierce drive just over the visitors’ crossbar as Stones finished a dominant first half on top.
However, Huntingdon came out for the second half determined to make amends for their performance in the opening period.
And they reduced the arrears on the hour mark when Spearink skillfully jinked his way past several challenge before unleashing a cracking strike into the far corner.
The visitors then scored their second with 20 minutes remaining as Spearink crept in at the far post to smash home a strong finish from a tight angle.
The momentum was now with the visitors and Simons dragged a shot wide while Spearink had another effort disallowed.
Home goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs had to get down smartly to thwart Spearink as Huntingdon piled on the pressure.
Their equaliser finally came in the 90th minute when Stones conceded possession cheaply and the ball was quickly despatched into the penalty area where Simons rifled home at the back post.
The hosts forced a couple of injury-time corners, but Huntington were determined not to fall behind again as the draw saw Stones drop down to eighth place in the Division One standings.
They are in action again on Tuesday night when they travel to second-placed Premier Division side Leicester Nirvana in the League KO Cup quarter-finals.
Clarke commented: “It will be a tough game, but it’s chance for us to see the rest of the squad in action and try a few things out.
“That first half performance shows the quality and ability we have. We didn’t have to to say much afterwards because the boys were all disappointed about what had happened, but we do have a good platform with which to build on.”
Stones: Bellairs, Easson, Willmer, Pell, Simpson, Boome, Porter, Butler, de Sousa, Clarke, Bates. Not used: Carter, Edmondson, French.
Huntingdon: Baines, Rodden, Seymour, Jake Waterworth, Odie Wason (Walter), Le, Down (Jamie Waterworth), Panting, Simons, Clarke (Spearink), Russo. Not used: Joshua Watson, Rey.