Harrogate Railway 1-2 Bamber Bridge
Harrogate Railway came away empty handed from a game they almost claimed maximum points from as Jamie Milligan’s 90th minute penalty sealed a 2-1 Bamber win.
Captain Dan Thirkell found the top corner in the 54th minute to put Lee Ashforth’s men ahead, and the home side defended resolutely until 11 minutes from time when Matty Kay drove low into the bottom corner.
Nathan Curtis then had a goal ruled out for offside and a shot cleared off the line with the ‘keeper beaten before Will Peers’ challenge resulted in former Harrogate Town man Milligan tucking away from 12 yards.
With Lawrance Hunter pulling up during the warm up, Peers was a late addition to the starting 11 at right back, while Lee Ashforth handed Harrogate Railway debuts to Chandler Hallwood and Daniel Devine.
Bamber were the first to threaten when Curtis Thompson threaded through Regan Linney only for Alex Low to execute a perfectly timed sliding challenge after just four minutes.
Railway had been on top in the opening exchanges, however, with Curtis having a shot blocked from a corner and another Brig defender getting their body in the way to deny Thirkell after the resulting set play.
On loan Bradford City youngster Hallwood then made a clever reaction save to deny Neil Crowe’s men taking the lead when he blocked Linney’s finish with his feet after a low cross from the left.
It was then the home side’s turn to look like scoring when Chris Ovington, after winning the free kick himself, curled just past the post moments before Curtis again saw a shot blocked that had come from a miss-hit Lee Dovey clearance.
Hallwood was soon in action again, this time keeping out Alastair Waddecar, the man who had scored a hat-trick past Railway just 18 days ago.
Another debutant, Devine, then combined with Tom Owen to muscle through the Bamber backline only for Kay to produce a tackle similar to Low’s at the other end and break up the attack.
Just past the mid-way point of the half, The Rail went close on two occasions when Ovington cut inside and stung the hands of Dovey with a sharp shot and Devine’s deflected shot again forced the Brig ‘keeper into a save.
Despite Railway’s dominance, it was the visitors who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening 45 when Matt Lowler stood one up at the back post where Thompson was left unmarked but could only find the post with his header.
The contest was end to end, and following the attack, Ovington drove towards the Brig goal, beating the keeper but not manging to pick out a team mate with his square ball.
There was still time in the half for Bamber to go close as Milligan headed over from a free kick and Linney had his strike well blocked by Luca Mellor.
Neil Crowe’s side threatened again at the restart with Thompson heading George Bowyer’s cross wide at the back post, but it was Railway who took the lead nine minutes into the half.
Another poor clearance from Dovey allowed Curtis to pick up the loose ball mid-way inside the Bamber half and find Owen, who had looked to have taken too long with the ball, before laying off into the path of Thirkell to curl a stunning first time shot into the top right corner.
Bamber’s hopes of an immediate response were quickly cut short when Hallwood saved acrobatically to his right from Linney’s shot.
As expected, the visitors piled men forward in search of an equaliser, but were constantly thwarted by centre back pairing Mellor and Low who dealt with everything that came their way.
The impressive Hallwood then produced arguably the save of the match when he rose high off his line to push Thompson’s powerful effort over the bar for a corner.
Bamber’s pressure eventually paid off in the 79th minute when a quickly taken free kick was crossed into the box and knocked down to the edge of the area where Kay produced an accurate low drive into the bottom corner.
With just five minutes remaining, Railway thought they had grabbed all three points when substitute Dan Barrett’s free kick evaded everybody and was put in the net by Curtis only for the linesman to raise his flag.
Four minutes later it was Bamber who were the victims of the linesman’s flag when Milligan managed to head the ball between the posts only for the certain winner to be ruled out.
The heavy pitch didn’t look to have taken anything out of Railway who had a golden chance to claim the win with just a minute left to play as Curtis got the better of Dovey in a challenge way outside the stopper’s comfort zone, only for his shot to be blocked on the line by the last defender.
From having the chance to win seconds before, Railway conceded a penalty in the 90th minute when Peers brought down his man and allowed Milligan to shoot into the bottom right corner from the spot and break Railway hearts.
The late defeat leaves Harrogate Railway five points adrift of safety and going into Tuesday’s game at New Mills desperate to reduce the gap to Ossett Town back to two points.
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Harrogate Railway: Hallwood, Lovegreen, Peers, Low, Mellor, Thirkell, Devine, Clamp (Sharrocks 70), Owen, Ovington (Barrett 57), Curtis
Subs not used: Mason, Wood
Goals: Thirkell 54
Booked: Ovington, Peers
Bamber Bridge: Dovey, Bowyer, Dodd, Lowler, Alexander, Kay, Thompson (Marlow 77), Steel, Linney (Vasey 70), Milligan, Waddecar
Subs not used: Moss, Niles
Goals: Kay 79, Milligan 90
Referee: D Street