HOLBEACH UNITED 1 PETERBOROUGH NS 1: Billy Smith’s blistering bolt from the blue denied Holbeach United a winning start to 2014 at a soggy Carter’s Park on Saturday.
Having not kicked a ball since December 21 of last year, the Tigers looked set for all three points against mid-table rivals Star when Tommy Treacher grabbed a 60th minute opener.
Wing wizard Smith had other ideas though, lashing home a fierce near-post drive from well outside the box some 15 minutes from time.
Neither side could argue that they deserved more than a share of the spoils – although Holbeach were left to rue a bizarre refereeing decision in the first period.
Fan favourite Treacher was handed a yellow card for perceived diving in the area, despite being on the receiving end of a clear foul. Sadly for those in attendance, it was the only major talking point of a drab first period.
With both teams a little rusty after rain-enforced lay-offs and the pitch boggy at best, it was never going to be a repeat of the classic reverse fixture which saw the Tigers win 3-2 back in August.
Tigers boss Glen Maddison was happy enough with the draw – but had a few gripes. He said: “I’d have probably taken a draw before the game, but I found myself a bit miffed on Saturday night. We got ourselves ahead and I didn’t feel like we were under any pressure.
“It was a great strike from Billy Smith though and I suppose any neutrals watching would say that they deserved a draw.
“The penalty decision was an odd one. The referee told me at half time that there was contact on Tommy – so how he’s booked him for diving is beyond me. I think the linesman flagged for a penalty too, but the referee overruled.
“If we had gone in at half time ahead, it may have been a different result for us.
“But after three weeks of no action I’m more than happy with the lads. I thought we played some good stuff on a pretty tough surface.”
The hosts were almost given an early gift when the towering Luke Hunnings deflected a cross towards his own goal, but keeper Nick Conroy – and former player of the year at Holbeach – got down expertly to save.
Conroy also kept out a scuffed low drive from Tigers’ leading scorer Tom Waumsley, while the same man lashed an instinctive effort just off target soon after.
City side Star were always a threat and they almost pinched the lead when Matt Sparrow’s cross clipped the top of the bar, while Hunnings also sent a free header over from about eight yards before the half-time whistle.
The second half picked up where its predecessor left off – and the longer the game went on, you felt one goal would be enough for either side. Holbeach sensed that too, so Treacher’s scruffy opener gave them a huge boost.
The workhorse frontman has scored plenty of better goals, but his cross-cum-shot that bobbled past the deceived Conroy and into the corner felt like an important one.
Not content with one, Adam Rothery headed inches wide from a Lewis Sturman cross moments later as Holbeach began to seize control.
But Star were never out of the game and Smith, their best player on the day, rifled an unstoppable effort in via the bar 15 minutes from time to ensure the points were shared.
The draw does, however, leave both side with plenty of work to do if they are to break into the top six come May.
Tigers: Overton, Leggett, Warfield, Murrell, Shipley, Sturman, Law (Sevilha 75), Rothery, Waumsley (Dunn 85), Treacher, Sergeant (Hollingworth 63). Attendance: 106.
• Saturday: Kempston v Tigers (3pm).