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Result: Shirebrook Town 1 - 1 Beverley Town 1

After a run of fixtures against sides low down in the NCEL1, this trip to Shirebrook Town represented a real test of Beverley’s promotion credentials and, while they didn’t manage to return to Norwood with the full three points, the character shown and the point gained suggest the Beavers have what it takes to stay the course. The first half was one of the best this season in terms of quality and organisation, while the second was marred by any number of cards being dished out to those both on the field and off it.

Beverley made three changes to the starting line-up that defeated Swallownest, with Alex Knaggs, Kai Larkin and Nathan Ofori coming in, and a strong look to the bench gave Dave Ricardo plenty of options in the second half. The first 15 minutes were tight and cagey, the equivalent of two prize fighters feeling each other out with their jabs, but neither side crafted a clear chance as they ran into two very well-organised defences. Matters burst into life soon after, firstly when a Shirebrook player went studs first down Ofori’s leg, but avoided any punishment, and secondly when a huge touchline bust-up saw play delayed for several minutes. Working out who did what to whom was nigh on impossible, but tempers rose ridiculously high, and the referee took the easy option of a booking for one of the Shirebrook players, and yellows too for Ricardo and one of the home side’s coaching staff.

To their credit, Beverley kept their composure and continued to play football up the steep slope, and their superior passing was rewarded with the opening goal on the half hour, as Ofori drove forward, fed Luka Suluburic, and the young winger’s cross was turned in at close range by Harry Griffin for the midfielder’s first goal of the season. Half chances for Ben Hinchliffe and Joe McFadyen went begging, and Kieren Watson looked a constant threat for Shirebrook, almost scoring from a quickly taken free-kick that went wide as the half came to an end.

Will Taylor replaced the injured Lawrence Heward at the interval and it wasn’t long before the referee had another decision to make, as another late studs-first challenge by Shirebrook went unpunished. It seemed innocuous and was a fraction late, but it demonstrated the inconsistency that was to hang over the second period. There’s little doubt that Shirebrook were starting to dictate proceedings, playing on the front foot and reducing Beverley to scraps of possession, and this state of affairs helped to contribute to the Beavers picking up yellow cards for Larkin, Suluburic and substitute Grant Tait in quick succession.

Olly Baldwin replaced goalscorer Griffin and produced a stunning leap to lay on a chance of Hinchliffe after 65 minutes, only for the keeper to somehow reach down to tip the shot round the post for a corner. That save was to prove doubly crucial to proceedings, as just a couple of minutes later McFadyen was dismissed following an off-the-ball incident as the players waited for a throw-in to be taken, reducing Beverley to 10 men for the third time in seven matches.

As Shirebrook cranked up the pressure in the search for an equaliser, their fans demanded more, including pleas for them to stop the “too much fancy pandering about”, but then again that was much more eloquent than some of the cries emanating from the home support. A storm appeared to be brewing one way or another, and it came with 10 minutes remaining. A clear Beverley handball in the area was somehow missed by the referee, causing him to be surrounded by Shirebrook players, and the apoplexy of the hosts’ bench spilled over into a foul-mouthed rant at the linesman that saw one of the coaching staff sent off.

Back to matters on the field, and the respite was short-lived, when Shirebrook secured a penalty a couple of minutes later, when Taylor handled in the area, and Watson blasted the spot-kick past the clutches of Tom Nicholson, who gave an exemplary display of coolheadedness with his keeping all evening.

There was a definite sense that Shirebrook were likely to go on and win the game at this point, but saves by Nicholson and some outstanding defending by Knaggs and Nathan Hotte ensured Beverley held on, although there was still time for a seventh Beavers card of the evening, brandished in the face of Baldwin late on.

After such a quality first half it was disappointing to be under the cosh for much of the second, but many lesser sides would have buckled under the pressure, especially after the sending off, so this feels very much a point gained for Beverley, even though victory would have seen them sit proudly at the top of the standings.



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