Harrogate Railway boss Marlon Adams said he was left “gutted” after seeing his side denied a thrilling comeback victory at Garforth Town by an 85th-minute strike.
Having fought back from 3-1 down to go 4-3 up with time running out, the men from Station View looked to be on track for a third consecutive NCEL Premier Division win until Lee Turner smashed home a stunning long-range effort.
The visitors found themselves in big trouble when they fell two goals behind just moments into the second half, but the sending off of home custodian Pete Lawrie for a wreckless professional foul proved a huge turning point.
The Railwaymen then poured forward and struck three times in 24 minutes to deservedly get their noses in front, only to be denied by a late sucker punch.
“I’m gutted, but I still look at this as a point gained. We did well to come from two goals down and get back to winning the game, the boys have done me proud,” boss Adams reflected.
“It was one of those games. We took our chances but there was some sloppy defending and we didn’t play overly well in the first half, which we suffered from.
“Second half, we put them under pressure and played a bit of football. After [the sending off] I think we dominated the game.
“We scored the fourth goal and tried to close it up but there’s a simple error from the goalkeeper and they made it level.”
It was Railway who began the game the brighter, creating a number of half-chances inside the opening 10 minutes, two of which came from set-pieces and fell to the head of new skipper Lincoln Adams, up from the back on his first start for the club.
Despite their positive start, the visitors were picking the ball out of the back of their own net just before the quarter-hour-mark.
From Garforth’s first real attack of any note, a low cross from the right-hand side of the penalty area was tucked away from close range by Mark Simpson, timing his run to the far post to perfection.
Although there was little to choose between the sides on the whole, it was the Miners who carried the greater threat in the final third and Simpson almost doubled their lead when he curled a low 20-yard free-kick around the wall and against the base of a post.
Railway kept plugging away, and eventually got their reward in the 33rd minute when Lincoln Adams once again showed his aerial threat at set-pieces, rising highest to meet debutant Curtis McMahon’s left-wing corner and glancing a fine header into the net.
Parity was short-lived, however, and the hosts were back in front when Turner’s flick-on sent Simpson scampering in on goal and the striker held off Lincoln Adams and calmly rolled the ball past advancing gloveman Chris Senior.
The interval arrived at a good time for the Railwaymen, as Garforth were starting to create shooting opportunities at will, yet the respite didn’t last.
Barely two minutes after the resumption, the Miners came again and Dan Coupland was picked out on the left side of the box and sent the ball across Senior and in off the inside of the far post.
Soon afterwards, Fraser Lancaster flicked the ball over the top of the home defence, releasing strike partner Ruben Jerome.
The Harrogate man took the ball around the onrushing Lawrie some 25 yards from goal, but was then scythed down by a wild lunge from the Garforth stopper.
Referee Peter Henger rightly produced a red card and left-back Aiden Kearsley was forced to don the gloves.
The visitors made the most of their numerical advantage and poured forwards in search of a way back into the game.
Following a decent spell of pressure, two home defenders failed to clear Jerome’s cross into the box from the right and the ball eventually fell for centre-half Shane Hamilton to ram home on the half-volley.
Simpson could easily have restored Garforth’s two-goal cushion when some poor defending allowed him a sight of goal, but his close-range effort came back off an upright for the second time in the game, while at the other end stand-in keeper Kearsley did well to tip a deflected Hamilton shot wide.
Railway cranked up the heat and, following a series of near-misses, they eventually got back on terms in the 80th minute as McMahon’s inswinging corner was thumped into his own goal at the far post by a home player attempting to prevent it flying directly into the net.
Two minutes later and another wicked McMahon corner from the same side caught out Kearsley, the gloveman only able to tip the ball onto the post on it’s way into the net.
There was still a sting in the tail however, and when Hamilton passed back to Senior and his poor clearance landed at the feet of Turner around 30 yards out, the Garforth forward rifled the ball straight back over the stranded custodian and into the net for 4-4.
“I’m glad we got a point, but three points would have been better for where we are in the league and taken us above Barton [Town},” Marlon Adams added.
“I’ve been here two games. We’ve got four points from two games and it’s not been a bad month.
“When I first came in I said that we wanted seven points for the month and we’ve already done that with a game to spare, so if we go on and get anything else then it’s a bonus.
“Berfore I took over, Railway were struggling with six points from 16 games. From when I’ve come in we’ve seen a massive turnaround. The lads are confident and want to fight and play for the shirt and that’s what we need between now and the end of the season.”
Next up for the Railwaymen is a home clash with 13th-placed Liversedge on Wednesday evening, 7.45pm kick-off at Station View.