"We are just coming up short" in the big games, says Knaresborough Town boss
Knaresborough Town manager Paul Stansfield didn't think his players did too much wrong during Saturday's defeat to title rivals Penistone Church.
The Manse Lane outfit have been in excellent form since their promotion to the NCEL Premier Division at the end of last season, emerging as genuine contenders for a top-two finish.
They have however ended up on the losing side each time they have encountered the league's top two - leaders Yorkshire Amateur and second-placed Penistone - leaving them seven points adrift of the summit after 22 matches.
"The margins are very fine, but we are just coming up short against the top teams," said Stansfield, reflecting on a 3-1 loss in South Yorkshire.
"It was very tight on Saturday, just as it was against the Ammas and last time we played Penistone. They're both really good sides but we could easily have won all three games.
"We played very well at the weekend. The lads responded brilliantly to conceding early on and we didn't want half-time to come as we were on top and it gave Penistone the chance to re-group.
"Ben Cohen's run through on goal early in the second half and beaten the keeper, but the ball's spun back off the post but stayed out, then they've gone down the other end and scored two brilliant goals.
"That was the difference in the end and there isn't too much you can do about finishes of that quality.
"To say we were missing four of our best players on the day I don't think we've done too bad. On another day, we win the game."
Hosts Penistone began brightly, but there was an element of good fortune about the way they opened the scoring in the seventh minute.
A corner was initially cleared, only for the follow up to be headed on by Brett Lovell and the ball looped slowly up in the air and dropped agonisingly over Jack Rushworth and under the cross-bar.
A sustained spell of Boro pressure saw Cohen twice go close before Luke Stewart was fouled outside the box in the 36th minute and Dan Thirkell netted from the resulting free-kick.
In added-time at the end of the half, Thirkell could have had a second, but fired over after Rob Worrall's lofted centre had caused mayhem in the penalty area.
Just moments after the resumption, Rushworth made an excellent save at the feet of Penistone's Nathan Keightley, though two minutes later Boro went closer still at the other end.
Cohen broke through on to a great pass, however his strike hit the inside of a post and rebounded into the grateful arms of home stopper Chris Snaith.
Reprieved, the Barnsley outfit re-claimed the ascendancy in the 67th minute, Keightley controlling a right-wing centre and firing home.
Stansfield's men were soon back in the hunt, however, and Gregg Anderson headed towards goal only to see his effort cleared from the line, while Brad Walker also fired wide of the mark.
The clincher then arrived four minutes from time, Keightley again the scorer as he hammered an unstoppable dipping volley over everyone and just inside the far post to wrap up the points.
Defeat leaves Boro fourth in the table ahead of Saturday's trip to Staveley Miners Welfare (3pm).