Holwell Sports went agonisingly close to a sought-after win on Saturday, but were held to their third successive draw.
A three-match unbeaten run would normally suggest all is okay with life, but Holwell, stuck second-bottom of the East Midlands Counties League, ae craving a win to take them forward.
Sports have won just once in the league this season, and on Saturday hosted a Stapenhill side six places above them and without a league win since mid-September.
The early exchanges were Stapenhill’s as Holwell were slow to find their rhythm, but the hosts’ first corner almost brought an opening goal when Bitmead rose highest to glance a header just wide.
The visitors were poor in the final third, but nearly went ahead when Ashley Gerner unleashed a 20-yard thunderbolt which flew just inches over.
The game was end-to-end, but with little excitement.
Joe Hartopp was quiet and unable to impose himself on the visitors’ back four, but nearly brought the game to life when a good move back to front saw Mark Tinsley do well and play in the Holwell new boy whose chip beat the keeper, but went just wide of the left-hand post.
Stapenhill’s greater determination led to their goal after 35 minutes when winger Jamie Disney got the better of Wood as he tried to shepherd out a ball for a goalkick.
The winger kept the ball in and got past Anthony Wood before sending in a hopeful low cross which Daniel Garforth bundled in.
However, from the restart Holwell went straight at Stapenhill, with Tyler Sibson doing well to send in a decent ball which just evaded the home forwards, and Brad Smith’s good shot bringing a save from keeper Gough.
As half-time approached Stapenhill almost doubled their lead through Garforth’s shot, but Holwell keeper Binns did very well to save, assisted by Wood.
Holwell made a better start to the second half, with Tinsley in the thick of things.
But the visitors had a great chance to extend their lead 10 minutes in through Disney’s high cross from the right. Binns came for the cross, but could only flap at the ball which fell to left winger Nial Dawkins whose shot was eventually blocked.
Holwell brought on Fontoura and Reek for Hazeldine and Sibson, and Fontoura immediately started to bother the defence with good footwork, sending a good ball inside to Stevenson who shot just over.
Things got better for Holwell after 63 minutes when, after confronting the assistant referee, Stapenhill’s central defender Paul Furniss was sent off by referee Scott.
Holwell’s numbers started to count, along with the visitors’ frustration, and yet again the home crowd could sense a comeback.
Reek’s great cross deep into the box found Wood who did well to get onto it at the back post, but headed wide.
Fontoura again did well and sent a good ball to Stevenson whose 25-yard drive looked like the equaliser until a glance off a defender took it inches over.
But it was second time lucky when the corner was cleared out to Stevenson just outside the 18-yard box and his unstoppable volley levelled the scores.
Holwell pressed for that elusive win, and with five minutes left, Ridout headed a free-kick back across the box where Tinsley stretched to turn the ball goalbound.
But a last ditch block denied Holwell the win they might just have deserved for their second-half efforts.
Holwell: Binns, Randall, Bitmead, Ridout, Wood (Woodcock), Hazeldine (Reek), B. Smith, Stevenson, Tinsley, Hartopp, Sibson (Fontoura). Sub not used: S. Smith, J. Goddard.