Northern Counties East League Premier Division
Bridlington Town 1
Brighouse Town 1
TOWN’S title hopes were blown slightly off course at a blustery Queensgate as their habit of giving away penalties at home proved costly again.
A third successive league draw, while the top two were winning, but it could have been worse as hard-working Brighouse grew in confidence in the closing stages.
Town are clearly not at their best after their disrupted December, and while their intricate passing game has won them three points after three points in the past, Saturday saw them over-elaborate too often on a bobbly pitch.
On an afternoon of hellos and goodbyes, the Seasiders welcomed new signing Scott Phillips into the squad as he took a place on the bench. Another potential recruit Dave Kemp watched from the stands and there was a welcome back to keeper Mark Wilberforce after four months out injured.
But Wayne Wallace was making his last appearance before moving to Australia, and there was no last chance to see him in his preferred midfield role, as he switched to centre half to cover another departure, Matty Plummer.
Brighouse started cautiously, following many visitors to Queensgate by starting with one up front and filling midfield to stop Brid getting an early goal that could open the floodgates.
It worked, with chances few and far between in the opening stages. The closest Town got to breaking the deadlock was when Craig Palmer couldn’t stretch to met James Bennett’s left wing cross.
At the other end, Brighouse had the league’s top scorer Nathan Cartman - a busy striker who was making himself a nuisance to Wallace and Tom Lee.
His ambitious chip from the edge of the area on 20 minutes was the nearest the visitors came to a goal - but Wilberforce gathered easily.
Steve Lyon spurned a golden chance when James Waggett blocked his close-range effort before the longest-range effort you could imagine.
Lee was inside his own half as he volleyed Waggett’s goal kick straight back, over his head and just wide of the far post. It would have been some goal.
Nick Boshell volleyed an effort wide, and Ash Allanson forced the game’s first decent save, as Waggett held his stinging low drive, with Hogg waiting to benefit from any spill.
Halfway through the first half, the visitors scored. Wallace blotted his final appearance when he got the wrong side of Cartman and bundled him over in the penalty area.
Nick Boshell confidently found the corner of the net with his spot kick, sending Wilberforce the wrong way.
Lyon broke the offside trap and fed Hogg, who beat a defender and crashed a shot against the crossbar, but Brighouse were weathering the storm and should have doubled their lead.
Skipper Simon Wood played in Cartman and he should have added to his 13 league goals, but shot straight at Wilberforce’s legs.
Palmer saw a free kick headed clear for a corner and was the victim of a bobble as he pulled the trigger, resulting in his shot troubling the clubhouse more than the goalkeeper.
Bennett hit the target with a shot on the turn in injury time but Brighouse were worthy of their half time lead.
The second half began with little action of note until the hour mark when Wallace had to be at full stretch to cut out a long ball and Boshell forced a reasonably comfortable save from Wilberforce.
On 64 minutes, Town levelled. Phil Harrison’s raking through ball found Hogg. He got a shot away but it was blocked and Tom Fleming picked up the rebound, stepped inside a defender and rifled home.
Alex Rhodes replaced Lyon and presented a different kind of threat to Brighouse’s strong backline. His pace set up Fleming but Bennett couldn’t convert the cross.
Boshell should have bagged his second of the afternoon but Wilberforce beat away his shot after a quick counter attack involving sub Andrew Hawker.
Phillips made his first appearance as a Town player when he replaced Allanson, but Waggett was having a relatively comfortable afternoon in the Brighouse goal.
Alex Hallam should have done better when he got in behind Harrison but fired wide of the far post and minutes later the visitors were furious when Danny Hill’s shot was blocked by what they believed was a defender’s arm.
Referee Keith Lawson waved away their appeals and deserves a mention for his excellent performance. No yellow cards and a fuss-free attitude.
Brighouse were enjoying the better of the possession and territory by this stage and Wallace’s last major contribution in a Town shirt was another excellent block from Boshell’s shot, and Town finally gave it a go in the last 10 minutes.
Fleming cut inside but shot straight at Waggett and Rhodes was finding some joy down the right but the end product was lacking.
Cartman, who had operated in a deeper role in the second half, wriggled free in the box as the clock ticked on to the 90th minute, but failed to hit the target when presented with an excellent opportunity.
Fleming’s battle with Waggett continued in injury time, but the keeper produced another save and though Town forced two late corners, they have rarely prospered from corners, if at all, this season.
Town’s squad is changing by the week, which is not helping consistency, but they need a win sooner rather than later.