Harrogate Railway gain crucial point but let slip two-goal cushion against Witton Albion
Harrogate Railway 2-2 Witton Albion
Harrogate Railway squandered a two-goal cushion but held on to secure a much-needed point in an entertaining 2-2 draw against mid-table Witton Albion at Station View on Monday Night.
Nathan Curtis headed a lively Railway in front after Dan Barrett had struck the bar early on.
Captain Dan Thirkell gave the hosts a perfect start to the second half as he nodded home Lawrance Hunter's corner.
But Witton halved the deficit one minute later through Joe Newton and levelled matters when Rob Hopley's header went in off the post.
The visitors were on top throughout the second period and Railway were thankful to a stand-out performance by young goalkeeper Chandler Hallwood and crucial blocks by Hunter and Alex Low.
Curtis should have clinched a welcome victory in the final moments but he chose to cross when bearing down on goal.
Railway remain stuck in the relegation zone in Evo-Stik First Division North and now lie one point behind nearest rivals Ossett Town having played three more fixtures.
Railway were again without pivotal loan signing Amar Purewal as Ashforth recalled joint topscorer Dan Barrett into his starting line-up.
Witton had blown Railway away 5-0 in the reverse fixture but there was little sign a similar drubbing would take place at Station View as Ashforth's men started lively.
Barrett looked hungry for goals up front and headed a Hunter free-kick onto the top of the bar inside ten minutes.
Chances were frequently arriving for both sides as defences were broken apart on a bobbly and slippy pitch.
Hallwood prevented Railway from falling behind as he saved Hopley's opening effort with his legs before Curtis capitalised on a slip in the Witton defence only to see his effort turned around the post.
Hallwood spread himself well again to deny Witton midfielder Carl Peers before the breakthrough arrived at the other end.
Inswinging free-kicks were causing problems in the away defence and Chris Ovington's set-piece was met well by Curtis, leaving Witton keeper Owen Evans stranded.
Barrett, an industrious figure all game up front, almost doubled the advantage soon after the goal but his fierce strike from distance grazed the post.
Railway were on course for only their fifth win of the campaign at the break, and that position became cosier when Thirkell doubled the lead.
Ovington's whipped strike was excellently parried behind for a corner by Evans but from Hunter's ensuing deliver, the ball spooned up for Thirkell to nod into the opposite corner.
Railway's faithful were perhaps still celebrating their second when the arrears were reduced. Just one minute later, Newton found space inside the box and his effort crept under the otherwise exemplary Hallwood at his near post.
It was a significant turning point to the match as Rail' began to sit back and concede possession too easily.
Hunter had to be in the right place on the line to deny a goalbound header while Thirkell put his body on the line a moment later to thwart the visitors again.
The equaliser did arrive, however, as Hopton rose highest from a deep free-kick and headed in off the post.
A third goal line clearance was required to deny Witton taking the lead as Will Peers stopped Darhyl Mason's shot, after the substitute had rounded Hallwood.
The young Bradford keeper was then required to save low down from Hopley's charge through a vacant Rail' back four.
Railway forced one more opportunity but Curtis wasted his chance to be a hero. After latching onto Barrett's flick on, the former Ossett striker decided to chip across goal in front of Charlie Clamp when he looked destined to score.
And it required a fine last ditch tackle by Low to ensure a share of he spoils. The central defender launched himself into a crucial block at the feet of Witton's Jake Porter.
Railway now have 11 matches - including eight at home - remaining to save their status in the Evo-Stik leagues and face play-off hunting Lancaster City at Station View on Saturday.
Harrogate Railway: Hallwood, Hunter, Lovegreen, Low, Coates, Thirkell, Youhill, Peers, Barrett, Curtis, Ovington(Clamp 56)
Subs not used: Devine, Mellor, Parkes, Owen
Goals: Curtis 28, Thirkell 47
Witton Albion: Evans, Gardner, Dawson (Mason 33), Wilson, Mullarkey, Peers, Newton (Noone 87), Parker, Hopley, Owens, Andrews
Subs not used: Barner, Chrisokhou
Goals: Newton 48, Hopley 76
Booked: Wilson, Mason
Referee: J Price