Ambitious Shirebrook Town slumped to a disappointing 3-0 defeat against promotion favourite’s Albion Sports at a bitterly cold Horsfall Stadium in Bradford on Saturday.
After Wednesday’s home defeat against league leader’s Athersley Recreation, it was another huge blow to the Langwith Road’s hopes for promotion this season and they now drop from second to fifth in the NCEL Division One table.
Shirebrook were without skipper and midfielder Jack Barnett, striker Danny Williams and full back Rob Ludlam. Meanwhile, striker Jason Bradley and midfielder Adam Walker returned to the side, whilst top-scorer Jake Vernon was named in the starting eleven for the first time since the end of November.
Sports started the game just one place and one point behind Shirebrook, and with four games in hand. And it always promised to be a tough game for the visitors against Sports, a side who hadn’t lost a league fixture at home since the second Saturday of the season way back last August.
But, after a fairly quiet opening period, Shirebrook had a good five minute spell at the end of which they almost took the lead through Vernon with a deflected shot from the edge of the box that Sports’ keeper Aaron Brian did well to push over the bar.
However, Sports edged in front a minute later from Alex Cusack’s corner on the left. Shirebrook left Adam Jones on his own wide of the far post and he was free to head the ball back across the box for Karl Hall to nod in unmarked at the opposite post from eight yards out.
Sports turned the screw after that and they had most of the possession for the remainder of the half, but they couldn’t find the net again before going into the interval.
And that should have given Shirebrook time to regroup, but the anticipated fight-back never came, whilst Sports continued to work hard after the break and they were rewarded when they doubled their advantage ten minutes into the second half, Hall grabbing his second goal after lashing the ball into the net from 25 yards as the visitors stood off him.
It was a killer blow and three minutes later Cusack made the points safe when he gave Sports a third goal, cutting in from the edge of the box on the left to give himself just enough space to fire past Shirebrook keeper Ben Hallam from 16 yards out at the near post.
Shirebrook huffed and puffed after that, but with no real effect and Sports always looked comfortable, capable of adding to their score as they continued to impose their superior, busy game on the visitors right up until the final whistle.
A very disappointed Shirebrook manager Mark Shaw said after the game: “That’s probably the worst defeat we’ve had since we took over. We were extremely poor.”
“We didn’t create enough going forward in such a big game and then we had a mad five minutes again when we’ve conceded two daft goals, and it’s just not good enough.”
“I’m disappointed today because we haven’t really taken the game to them and that’s one thing. I don’t think we’re creative enough at the moment and that’s another thing, so we’ve got to work on stuff.”
“Now need favours from other teams, but we’re not going to give up the fight. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and we’ve got to get back into it, and hopefully we can keep in amongst them. But we’ve got to start winning, and quick,” Shaw ended.
Without a game in midweek, Shirebrook Town are next in action on Saturday when they return to Langwith Road for the visit of West Yorkshire side Pontefract Collieries for a 3pm kick-off.
Albion Sports: Brian, Khan (Stamer 75), Hussain, Flaherty, Stansfield, Brown, Maturine, Jones, Facey, Hall (Sides 65), Cusack (Williams 70). Subs not used: Jackson.
Shirebrook Town: Hallam, Lemon, Rowbotham, Walker (Thompson 75), Timons, Cardwell, Mullen, Forbes, Vernon (Rowley 66), Bradley, Husbands Jordan 75). Subs not used: Hemsley, S Shuttleworth.
Referee: Peter Sporne (South Yorkshire).