Holker Old Boys 1, Winsford United 1: WINSFORD ended with nine men after Stuart Wellstead and Mark Quinn were both sent off in the closing minutes on Saturday.
Overall, they gained a hard-earned point on Holker's dramatic slope and it was easy to see why visiting teams found it so difficult to take anything away from their ground.
The home team chose to play against the slope in the second half and it's then when they began to play their best football.
For all the Blues' good football and one-man advantage after full-back Lyndsey Robb was sent off they failed to produce a single clear chance. Chris Melia, Ian Givin and Mark Rampley all had clear shooting opportunities late in the game but they hesitated and the chance was lost.
Winsford also suffered a blow in the closing minutes when Wellstead and Quinn were sent off in rapid succession, both for allegedly abusing the officials.
The referee had made his attitude clear in the 24th minute when he sent off Robb for berating him regarding a penalty decision so the Blues might have exercised some discretion when contesting his decisions. With Neil Harrison and Danny Frost already looking at suspensions at the start of next season Dave Twite might be looking at a situation where players he probably hoped to be the nucleus of his team for the new campaign could miss up to ten matches - including vital cup matches.
Winsford made a bright start with two corners in the first minute and they continued to play attractive football and it was no surprise when they took the lead on 24 minutes. Neil Harrison's free kick found Melia in the penalty area and although there didn't seem to be any apparent threat he was pushed firmly in the back and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Penalty king Quinn stepped up to convert his 11th successive penalty of the season. Holker rarely ventured into the Winsford half even though they had the considerable slope with them and when they did they found the Blues back four uncompromising.
The turnaround changed things and Holker looked a much better team playing up the slope with lively left-winger Dave Swarbrick causing most of the problems.
He escaped his markers in the 60th minute and neatly lobbed the ball over the advancing Barry Crellin to level the scores. Winsford continued to run the midfield but their best effort was in the 79th minute when Harrison had the ball in the net only for it to be ruled offside.
UNITED: Crellin; Frost, Well-stead, Chambers, Corcoran, Hutchinson, Givin, Quinn, Melia, Rampley, Harrison. Star Man: Neil Harrison, effective and tireless work rate Next Best: Danny Frost Team Rating: 3 Match Rating: 3 Att: 37