Cleethorpes Town’s slim NCEL title hopes were officially slayed on St George’s Day as Bridlington Town completed a home and away double over the Owls.
Two goals in 10 first-half minutes gave Bridlington breathing space and although Cleethorpes replied soon after the break, Gary Allanson’s men have beaten every other team in the top 10, barring leaders Tadcaster Albion and Barton Town.
Life could have been made easier for Town in the opening stages when Joel Sutton chased a long ball over the Cleethorpes defence. Keeper Liam Higton rushed from his line and out of his penalty area and blocked Sutton’s attempt to nick the ball past him.
Bridlington felt he used his hand outside the penalty area, but referee Garreth Rhodes insisted the ball hit his chest, and Sutton’s second attempt to lift the ball over the keeper, was too strong and sailed over the bar.
The opening goal arrived on 15 minutes. A right-wing corner was headed down by Chris Jenkinson and Andy Norfolk side-footed home at the back post.
The lead was doubled nine minutes later. Tim Taylor was afforded too much room by the Owls defence and he strode forward and struck a low shot which was spilled by Higton and Brett Agnew pounced quickest to slot home the rebound.
Cleethorpes then did everything but score in a 60-second spell when Town’s goal led a charmed life.
A deep free kick was headed goalwards by Daniel Trott and James Hitchcock scrambled to his left and was able to get his fingertips on the ball to send it out for a corner.
That was dealt with by the Town defence, but a second corner caused havoc, and Jack Richardson and Matt Bloomer looked certain to score but both times, defenders threw their bodies in front of the ball on the goal-line, and the danger was eventually cleared.
Bridlington ended the first half well and a stunning ball by Tom Fleming released Norfolk, but he lashed a shot over the bar.
A 3-0 lead would have killed off Cleethorpes but five minutes after half-time they were back in the game.
Luke Mascall had looked to be the Owls’ best outlet going forward all afternoon, and he stepped inside Chris Jenkinson and curled an effort around Hitchcock and into the far corner.
The visitors sensed the momentum was with them and Ryan Nicholls had to make a good block to deny Trott at the expense of a corner.
Then, Hitchcock rescued Bridlington when a high ball caught Jenkinson out and Mascall raced through but the keeper stood tall and was able to grab the striker’s shot.
Trott, Norfolk and Agnew were all booked as the game spiced up, and Cleethorpes threw on top scorer Marc Cooper, who has 35 goals this season, to try to get on level terms.
But it was Bridlington who created more of the chances in the closing stages.
Agnew saw an acrobatic attempt go wide and his produced a tame effort at the end of a quick counter attack by the hosts.
Fleming could have made the game safe, after a smart turn on the edge of the box but he couldn’t keep his shot low enough.
Town are guaranteed to finish fifth in the NCEL Premier Division, but underlined their potential by taking 15 points out of 24 in their clashes with the sides who will finish above them this season.
They could face Cleethorpes again in the semi-finals of the League Cup, if they can win at Thackley on Thursday night.
Bridlington’s final league game is this Saturday, at home to Parkgate, who beat Town back in August, but still have the threat of relegation hanging over them.
The Seasiders have already scored more goals and secured more points than the 2014/15 season, and will finish three places higher.
But they will be keen to finish on a high, with players still hoping to nail down a place in the line-up for the East Riding Senior Cup final at the KC Stadium next month.