How much damage will be done by Deeping Rangers’ first home league defeat in just over 12 months?
Well, at this stage, it doesn’t seem too serious with four games in hand to overturn a nine-point advantage for Yaxley.
The Clarets are certainly not out of the title race – but they got what they deserved on Friday night.
A poor performance was punished by a very impressive display from the Cuckoos.
Yaxley were sharper from start to finish while Deeping didn’t really turn up in front of the biggest crowd this season for a league game at the Haydon Whitham Stadium.
It promised to be a hugely entertaining game between championship contenders – but Deeping never got going so it wasn’t great to watch either.
Top scorer Scott Coupland couldn’t become involved as Joe Butterworth stayed close all evening.
Henry Dunn, Dan Flack and Jason Kilbride briefly looked to be more influential during the second half.
However, Olly Sutton was not tested – apart from Sam Hollis’ effort – even in limited moments when Deeping got into the final third.
Phil Stebbing’s header was disallowed, Danny Bircham tipped Dan Cotton’s free-kick onto the bar and Cotton poked another effort wide – but Yaxley were not to be denied.
The breakthrough came on 12 minutes as Matt Sparrow pounced on Chris Hollist’s poor touch.
Sparrow cut inside from the right of the penalty box and stroked a left-footed finish into the bottom corner.
Sparrow tormented Hollist and the Premier Division’s top scorers should have added to their tally from his service.
Cotton’s opportunity was thwarted by a last-gasp block and substitute Tom Waumsley forced a save from Bircham at the end of stoppage-time.
Coupland, Kilbride and Mooney all missed the target but Deeping lacked quality to create clear-cut chances.
It’s not all over, though, as the Clarets’ run-in looks pretty favourable compared to their rivals’ fixtures.
They will certainly need to get back to their best form.
Deeping’s first defeat of 2018 came 371 days after the previous loss in the league at home to Newport Pagnell Town – now they must find a response.
4-4-2: Bircham 6; Flack 6, Hunnings 6, Clay 6, Hollist 4 (sub Conyard 90 mins); Kilbride 6, Dunn 6, Burton-Jones 5 (sub Simpson 59 mins, 5), Hollis 6; Coupland 5, Mooney 6 (sub Coulson 80 mins). Subs not used: Marsden, Stainsby.
4-5-1: Sutton; Duncliffe, Watson, Spencer, Pike; Sparrow (sub Carter 90 mins), Hook, Butterworth, Cotton, Saunders (sub Nolan 80 mins); Stebbing (sub Waumsley 73 mins). Subs not used: Wall, Blake.
Sparrow (12 mins, 0-1).
Matt Sparrow – usually we give the honours to our local team but Yaxley’s right-winger was simply sensational. He tormented Chris Hollist, particularly in the first half, and deserved to be the match-winner. Nobody in claret and blue could take any credit.
Kirby Muxloe (A) – Saturday, March 17.