Snow storm: Holwell Sports fume as two-goal lead slides away after delay
Holwell Sports were furious at key refereeing decisions which they felt cost them two crucial points against top-eight side Clifton All Whites on Saturday.
With the hosts leading 2-0 and well on top, referee Cuthbert stopped the match with 25 minutes left to clear the lines of snow in a match punctuated by heavy snow showers.
Clifton came back out rejuvenated and forced a draw with two late goals, including a penalty and red card which also had home fans fuming.
Both teams had started slowly as the snow and strong wind made play difficult. Holwell’s first real chance came after 15 minutes when Liam Chapman shot from just outside the 18-yard box, but keeper McDonald easily gathered.
Minutes later Chapman again broke into the box from the left, but chose to try and play in Tinsley and his pass was weak.
At the other end Crosby held off Nicholas Andrews and shot, but Jamie Witham saved.
Holwell looked to have the greater intent, managing to play some good football and yet again getting the better of a team 10 places above them in the league.
Holwell’s midfield were well on top trying to get the runners Hazeldine, Tinsley and Chapman away down the channels, and this earned a free-kick on the right after 27 minutes.
Pele Orton floated the set-piece into the crowded goalmouth, and when the ball was cleared out, Chapman drilled the ball back through the crowd and low into the net.
Holwell were well on top, but Cuthbert looked uncomfortable with the conditions and consulted the managers on the half-hour who were happy to carry on. McDonald did well to tip over Hazeldine’s 20-yard effort, and Holwell’s pressure continued, with Tinsley causing problems.
Clifton’s only response came just before the break when left-winger Connor Hardy bore down on goal, but Witham was equal to the task.
Supporters spent the half-time interval clearing the lines ahead of the second half as the snow continued.
Clifton never looked happy from kick-off and started the second half camped in their own half.
Without the efforts of Hawkes and Mills in defence, supported by Russell, Holwell may well have been out of sight as the midfield and forwards could not get to grips with the conditions.
Holwell continued to play through the conditions, with Betteridge’s free-kick just clearing the bar, and moments later Cowling stooped low to head a low cross in from the left, but McDonald turned it away.
And the hosts went further ahead on the hour when a quickly-taken throw-in from the left set Chapman away again in the left channel.
His low cross found Hazeldine unmarked on the right edge of the 18-yard box and he slammed the ball in off the post.
But five minutes later the whole pattern of the game changed when the game was stopped in bizarre circumstances.
Having played 65 minutes in sporadic snow flurries, Cuthbert decided to take the teams back to the changing rooms, rather than earlier when conditions may have been worse, while Holwell volunteers again cleared the lines of snow.
Holwell’s impetus and momentum was stopped in its tracks with feelings of injustice among supporters vented their anger at the referee for the interruption.
A different Clifton came back out, long after they had been requested to, with Cuthbert to their changing room to get them back onto the pitch.
The visitors finally wanted to compete, and 10 minutes after the restart, Sharron-Lewis collected the ball outside the 18-yard box and made his way into the box.
Three Holwell defenders tried to intervene and he went down. The linesman had already taken his position at the corner flag, and was signalling a corner, but the referee] blew for a penalty.
With the lines re-covered by more snow, supporters in the stands believed the offence may have occurred just outside the box, but after consulting his assistant, the referee confirmed the penalty and showed Ian Bitmead a red card for a last-man challenge despite other defenders being present.
Witham did well to block the spot-kick, but it rebounded off the keeper and Sharron-Lewis converted at the second attempt.
Clifton had their tales up, and Woodcock replaced Tinsley to restore a back four and he did well in the conditions.
The home side found it hard to get back into the game, and see out the remainder with just 10 men, and the feelings of injustice were compounded when Sharron-Lewis equalised with a good finish with five minutes left.
Andy Gray’s improving side may probably have accepted a point at kick-off, but felt hard done by with home fans believing the stoppage gave the visitors a clear advantage which, with their more experienced players, they knew how to exploit.
Holwell: Witham, B. Smith, Bitmead, Andrews, Betteridge, Hazeldine, Orton, O’Grady, Chapman, Cowling (S. Smith), Tinsley (Woodcock). Subs not used: Stevenson, Ambrose.