HOLBEACH UNITED 3 DEEPING RANGERS 3: Rarely do derby games deliver game-of-the-season contenders – but Holbeach and Deeping served up just that at Carter’s Park on Saturday.
Jason Turner snatched a point with the last kick of the game for the Tigers as the UCL Premier Division leaders let a 2-0 half-time lead slip through their fingers.
Jonny Allen (4) and Andrew Tidswell (25) put John Chand’s charges in complete control, but they hadn’t accounted for a rousing Rangers fightback.
Sub Ryan Oliver marked his debut with a clinical effort on 47 minutes, before Tom James lobbed home a classy leveller seven minute from time.
Oliver then thought he’d won it with a cool second in the first minute of added time, but Turner rifled home a last-gasp leveller to keep Holbeach in control of the title race.
It was all one-way traffic in the first half, with the Tigers threatening to run riot. Tidswell, Mitch Griffiths and Tommy Treacher all went close before Allen volleyed home an accurate low opener, via the inside of the post, on four minutes.
That soon became two when leading scorer Tidswell expertly steered a volley into the bottom corner midway through the opening period.
The Tigers then wanted a penalty when Rangers keeper James Doughty appeared to bring down Griffiths in an attack that saw Craig Parker have an effort kicked off the line. It looked a good shout for the hosts, but the referee was having none of it.
Perhaps the defining minute of the match was the 36th, with Holbeach losing skipper Jamie Stevens to a nasty hamstring injury. Deeping immediately summoned Oliver from the bench and began their assault on the hosts.
Alex Beck fired two warning shots wide in the closing stages of the first period, before racing down the right and crossing for new signing Oliver to net from close-range on his second Rangers bow just two minutes into the second half. Tidswell immediately fired over in reply for the hosts, but there was an evident shift in superiority in the derby duel as Rangers began to boss possession.
With the Holbeach defence looking uncharacteristically ragged without their influential skipper, Deeping looked dangerous whenever the ball went into the box.
From one of those crosses, big Matt Heron rose highest to head towards the top corner – only for Michael Emery to superbly tip the ball over the bar.
The Tigers keeper could do nothing about the Rangers equaliser, though. Ex-Spalding winger Tom James raced clear of a static home defence and had the presence of mind to loft a classy effort past an on-rushing Emery with the outside of his right foot.
Deeping now smelt blood and it came as no surprise when another Beck cross from the right allowed a jubilant Oliver to fire home his second at the back post.
Holbeach are top of the pile for a reason though – and they rescued an unlikely point when sub Turner profited from hesitant Deeping defending to smash an equaliser into to the top corner.
The breathless draw leaves the Tigers 14 points clear of the chasing pack... and it remains to be seen just how big a moment this could prove to be in their season.
Holbeach: Emery, Allen, Jackson, Toyne, Brown, J Stevens (Smith 36), Griffiths, Flack, Treacher (Turner 74), Tidswell, Parker. Not used: Overton, Hughes, A Stevens.
Deeping: Doughty, Lambley, Jackson, Tinkler, Ashton, Holt, James, Burton-Jones, Beck, Heron, Deane (Oliver 36).
HOLBEACH BOSS JOHN CHAND
“If I’m honest, losing Jamie Stevens totally changed the game. Although the defence wasn’t at fault, we were a bit indecisive after he went off and they fed off it.
“Drawing with Deeping is never a bad result, they’re a very good side. But having been 2-0 up, it’s hard to be happy. I felt the referee had a very poor game and he missed a clear penalty.
“He must be close to 60 years old and was rarely up with play. It’s not the first time he’s cost us dear.”
DEEPING BOSS TUNCAY KORKMAZ
“I’d have to agree that the game changed when Stevens went off. We made a tactical change to bring on Oliver and it paid off.
“It’s always hard to concede a late goal, but I think a draw was fair on reflection.
“After a few bad results, hopefully this is the start of a big run for us.”