Biggleswade FC were knocked off top spot on Saturday as they finished 2018 with a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to neighbours Stotfold.
FC were the SSML Premier Division’s top scorers whilst the bottom of the table Eagles had the worst defensive record. However, football matches don’t always go with the formbook and this certainly proved the case here.
Stotfold’s goalkeeper Matt Fallon and their defence were heroic at keeping the ball out at times.
With Tom Cookman starting a four-match ban, Justin Leavers was given the nod in attack alongside Alex Marsh and Abraham Eze, who was making his first start.
Stotfold made a bright start and a dangerous low cross early on had to be cleared by the covering Sam Kelly. FC soon found their feet though and an excellent reaction save from Fallon tipped over a powerful header at the near post from Nathan George.
The FC breakthrough arrived on 17 minutes. Lawrie Marsh received the ball with his back to goal just inside the box. He fed brother Alex and his snap left-footed shot was too hot for Fallon to handle and Pat McCafferty was on hand to bundle home his second goal in as many games.
The home side appealed for a penalty two minutes later when a smart move had Adam Hunt bursting into the box. He went down under a challenge, but the referee was quickly over to brandish a yellow card for diving.
Fallon continued his one-man crusade to deny FC any further goals. He was forced to claw out an overhit cross from Sam Kelly before he denied McCafferty with a dive to his left at full stretch following a fine driving run from the midfield maestro.
On the half-hour mark Stotfold pulled level. McCafferty had tracked a run into the penalty area and from point blank range the ball struck his arm as he attempted to protect his face. Khy Cyrus confidently dispatched the penalty sending Tompkins the wrong way.
Right on the stroke of half-time Eze rattled the underside of the bar with a rocket of a shot. Justin Leavers volleyed the rebound goalwards only to be denied by Fallon.
The chances continued to flow for FC early in the second half with Nick Henebery having two attempts superbly blocked and then just over on the volley respectively.
The longer the game went on though, the more the home side were snatching at their opportunities or lacking the quality in the final ball and when it was there, the Stotfold defending was brave and courageous.
The Eagles nearly got their noses in front ten minutes from time. A neat through ball into the penalty area gave them a sighter of goal, but the prodded finish beat Tompkins but agonisingly rolled the wrong side of the post.
McCafferty hit the top of the bar with an excellent near post header from an Alex Marsh corner whilst the tables were turned three minutes from time when McCafferty provided the ammunition for Marsh to volley inches over.
The draw sees Tring Athletic start 2019 in pole position following their 3-1 win over Cockfosters.
A bumper crowd is expected as FC lock horns with Eastern Counties League Stowmarket Town in the last 32 of the Buildbase FA Vase on Sunday, 2pm at the Carlsberg Stadium. Stotfold host Harpenden in the SSML on Saturday before hosting Godmanchester in the Hinchingbrooke Cup on Tuesday.