Promotion chasing rivals Potton and Rushden shared an eight goal thriller on Saturday – but a point was not enough for either side.
This was another match against top three opposition, and with Pinchbeck virtually assured of the title it was vital Potton stayed in touch with second place Raunds by winning.
At two up, Potton should have done so but to their credit the spirit shown to come back from 4-2 down to gain a point was pleasing.
More worrying though in the fact they have conceded eight goals in two matches which shows Steve Khune still has some pieces missing from his jigsaw if promotion is to be achieved.
Potton welcomed back Ryan Don from suspension with Gary Ansell Carter replacing Courtney Boughton and Mark Franklin making his first start instead of Nick Bines.
Rushden have surprised many with their position in the table this season but had the ever dangerous up Jory Mann front.
As per last week, Potton started the match brightly and could have taken the lead as early as the fourth minute when Gary Ansell Carter received the ball from Mark Franklin but his shot was straight at Kyle Swailes, the Rushden keeper. Two minutes later Ansell Carter was again wasteful when a great cross by Aaron Murrell was also not converted.
Ansell Carter was getting closer now and another quality delivery from Franklin who had a great battle all afternoon with the equally hirsute Ben Asulis, went just over.
Potton took the lead in the next minute – a Mark Franklin corner was headed goalwards by James Sage. A desperate Rushden defender seemed to clear it off the line before birthday boy Ansell Carter made sure from all of six inches!
Potton were creating chances at will which has been the case most of this season – converting them into goals though has not been their strength and more chances went begging from Ansell Carter and Ryan Don.
Rushden had barely been out of their own half and it was not until the 38th minute that they created a real chance when a decent cross was put wide.
Potton doubled their lead in the 41st minute through an intelligent ball by James Meredith found Danny Webb in space and he chipped it over the keeper. With half time approaching Potton looked like they would be the only winners but a rush of blood by keeper Tyler Josephs brought down a Rushden attacker heading away from goal resulted in a penalty.
Josephs got a yellow card for his troubles and Jory Mann converted the penalty to make it 2-1 at half time.
The second half started with Potton still in the dressing room – the midfield seemed to drop deeper as did the back four and with the riches Rushden had in attack this was suicidal leaving far too much space for them to exploit. This they did – the warning shot was a free kick after a foul by Tom Blatch which was just over by Mann in the opening minutes of the second half.
Further chances were being created most of these falling to the danger man Mann and he had a chance to restore parity when a harsh penalty was given against Calum Forster.
Josephs however made a fine save from Mann’s spot kick to keep the Royals in the lead. This lasted only five minutes though when another good cross from the left was headed in with some quality by Mann.
Things were to get worse in the 71st minute when Mann received the ball 40 yards from goal but with the defence sitting too deep he was allowed an unchallenged run before finishing with an excellent goal from 30 yards to complete his hat-trick.
Three minutes later Potton’s afternoon was turning into a nightmare when a mistake by Josephs on the heavy pitch meant Rushden increased their lead to 4-2.
The way they celebrated this it appeared they thought this was game over but Steve Khune threw his last throw of the dice by changing to 3-4-3 with Boughton and Bines joining the attack.
Twelve minutes remained when a Nick Bines corner was headed in by Danny Webb to make it 4-3, and with only three minutes on the clock Webb and Murrell combined to pass the ball wide to Nick Bines – he converted a difficult chance into the bottom far corner with some style.
Rushden though still could have gone on and won this though if not for a fine save by Josephs in the dying moments of the game.
Potton travel to Oakham in the league on Saturday and then host Stotfold in the North Beds Charity Cup on Tuesday
POTTON UNITED : Tyler Josephs, Calum Forster,Tom Blatch (Courtney Boughton 75),James Sage,Luke Harradine,James Meredith,Danny Webb,Ryan Don (Nick Bines 75),Gary Ansell Carter,Aaron Murrell, Mark Franklin