Ben Bailey scored a late equaliser to secure a point for Hednesford Town at Witton Albion in a pulsating game which was a prime advert for non-league football as the pendulum swung from one side to the other.
It was almost impossible to decide on a deserved winner in a game which saw each side dominate for periods of the game but ultimately share the points.
Hednesford and Witton both tested their opposing goalkeepers, with The Pitmen having the better chances in the opening exchanges as Elliott Durrell stung the fingers of Witton’s Stuart Plant on seven minutes before Dan Crane saved brilliantly at full stretch from Joshua Hancock.
Durrell fired in a vicious free kick which was parried away by Plant before Aaron Rey missed the best chance of the half when he picked up on a Ben Bailey flick-on, but scooped the ball over the bar when off balance from just six yards.
A potential turning point for The Pitmen came on 40 minutes when Neil Harvey turned Daniel Meadowcroft and was tugged back by the defender on the edge of the area. The referee hesitated but rightly showed the red card. From the resulting free kick Nathan Woolfe curled a superb left-footed shot onto the inside of the post.
At the sound of the half time whistle, The Pitmen faithful no doubt believed that the three points were there for the taking, but all credit to the home side and despite the one man deficit Witton more than held their own.
With the away side failing to make their advantage tell, Ben Bailey survived strong shouts from the terraces to join Meadowcroft in seeing red when he fouled Shaun Tuck, but seconds later it was Hednesford’s captain Darren Campion who was duly sent off for a strong tackle deemed by the referee to be a straight red card.
Surprisingly, with the numbers now evened up, Hednesford looked more threatening and Woolfe measured a perfect left footed cross which gave Rey the chance to score, but the striker, usually so cool in front of goal, took his eye off the ball as Plant spread himself and he shot wide.
Andrews missed a glorious chance for Witton two minutes later as Crane came rushing out of his goal, but then on 83 minutes Anthony Foster made no mistake from the penalty spot after a clear foul by substitute Sam Barnes.
The Pitmen were not to be denied a point however as their supporters looked on nervously and Bailey smashed in a rebound from a goal line clearance to equalise with three minutes remaining.
Crane then saved brilliantly twice to secure what could turn out to be a very important point in the title race.
Plant, Gardner, Wood, Glover, Meadowcroft, Sheehan (c), Hancock, Powell, Tuck, Foster, Andrews
Subs Not Used
James, Shaw, Moseley, Horne, Grocott
Crane, Disney (Barnes 71), Campion (c), Bailey (88), Francis, MacPherson, Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Patterson 62), Rey (Lennon 80), Woolfe
Subs Not Used
Bookings – Powell, Gardner, Osborne
Sent off – Meadowcroft, Campion
Entertainment Rating – 5 Stars
Star Man – Ben Bailey
Attendance – 507