Knaresborough Town suffered a 4-3 defeat to play-off rivals Hall Road Rangers in a pulsating game at Haworth Park.
With the dissipation of October’s winning run, Town have just begun to lose momentum and are now eighth after four games without a victory in NCEL Division One.
They will be particularly frustrated by the loss given that frontman Colin Heath netted his 14th and 15th of the season to put them two up inside eight minutes.
Knaresborough are not far away from the levels that they reached in their recent nine-match unbeaten run, but in the last two games chinks in their mentality, both in terms of collective performance and individual errors, have been exposed.
Paul Stansfield made four changes to the team that lost to Dronfield after his squad was hit with withdrawals variously due to illness, injury and work commitments.
His team made the perfect start, though, by going 1-0 up on two minutes.
Adam Fairhurst set the ball back for Harry Brown from the right byline; his goalward drive was controlled expertly by Heath before he swivelled to plant the ball in from seven yards.
Although Hall Road watched Josh Batty’s effort curl only narrowly over, the visitors swooped to make it 2-0 six minutes later.
After a clipped cross was only half cleared, Simon Parkes had his shot saved and Heath adjusted well to force home the rebound from 10 yards with his left foot.
Within the minute that lead had been sliced in two.
Batty’s cross found the run of home debutant Louis Kirk in the box, who put a weak shot on target but one that was parried back to him by Jack Rushworth for a simple close-range finish.
Hall Road had the better of these stages and brought the game back to 2-2 in the 20th minute, as Kirk’s clever low delivery from the right channel found Danny Norton who sidefooted home from eight yards.
Town skipper Will Lenehan popped up in the opposition’s box when he nodded Dan McDaid’s accurate free-kick wide.
The game looked to be settling down after a frenetic start but the hosts struck just after half an hour to take a lead they would not let go of.
Some slack marking from Knaresborough at a corner allowed Norton to ghost in unmarked and although there were some appeals that his downward header should not count, it was acknowledged that Jonty Maullin’s defensive clearance had come behind the line.
After the break neither side looked particularly inclined to make the next move in the game.
Town had the ball in the net from a free-kick only for the goal to be disallowed and Rushworth was forced into a fine save leaning back as Spinks tried to chip him one-on-one.
Spinks’ moment came in the 57th minute when he unleashed a howitzer of a direct free-kick; from impact to the right of goal 30 yards out, it found a trajectory early in flight and looked like it would let nothing stop it ripping in to the back of the net.
It was a strike worthy of settling a game of football at any level but Brad Walker seemed not to agree as his drive was headed behind for a corner and he fought his way to the byline to have a shot turned away at the near post.
From here, Knaresborough struggled to create clear-cut chances and it was Hall Road, through Kirk and James Piercy, who looked the more likely.
Stansfield’s changes did spark some creativity in the final third and it was 4-3 when Harry Brown planted in substitute Paul Atkinson’s left-wing cross.
Two late corners threatened to provide a late twist but none was forthcoming. Town have three home games to get back to winning ways, starting with the visit of Rossington Main to Manse Lane next week.