Pontefract Collieries had to come from behind and survived having two players sent-off to keep their play-off hopes very much alive in the Evo-Stik League’s East Division.
Away to a Wisbech Town side in the bottom half of the table who they beat 4-0 a month earlier, it was tougher than they might have expected for the Pontefract team, but they showed their battling spirit to run out 2-1 winners.
The victory could have come at a cost, however, with two key players – top scorer Eli Hey and goalkeeper Ryan Musselwhite – both facing suspensions following the red cards they received in the game.
For the third of four successive away matches Ponte made just one change to the line-up that brought back a point from Marske with former England junior Gavin Rothery back in the line-up, replacing Nick Guest.
They struggled to create clear chances initially with the first opportunity falling to Wisbech who shot wide.
The tackles began to fly in as the hosts were determined to be more competitive than they had in the previous meeting and one left Connor Smythe on the floor needing treatment.
The closest Colls came to a goal came right at the end of the half when the Wisbech keeper dropped a cross and Spencer Clarke’s follow-up shot was cleared off the line.
The action hotted up after the break when the home team took the lead four minutes into the second half through Danny Setchell after the ball dropped nicely for him following some rare hesitant defending.
Ponte hit back to level within nine minutes as striker Hey was pulled back in the area and a penalty was the result. Up stepped Vaughan Redford to confidently sent his spot kick into the roof of the net and it was 1-1.
Two minutes later Colls had turned it round completely and were ahead when they surged straight forward again and Rothery calmly finished.
Wisbech were in no mood to be steamrollered, however, and Ponte’s task to see out the remainder got tougher when they went down to 10 men with Hey controversially shown a straight red card.
Good game management was now needed and some solid defending, but with centre-backs Jake Picton and Clarke standing strong the visitors were able to protect their goal well in the closing stages.
They went down to nine men near the end with keeper Musselwhite sent-off after receiving a second yellow card. Jimmy Williams, who had only recently come on as the third and final Ponte substitute, took the gloves, but was not called upon to make a serious save and Colls had done well in the circumstances to be able to bring all the points back home. The value of the victory could be seen afterwards with only one of the top eight teams in the East Division dropping points.
So it is as you were at the top end of the table with Pontefract still in fourth place, 11 points behind leaders Morpeth Town, four behind Brighouse Town and two behind Sheffield, who have played a game more.
Ossett United’s 1-0 defeat to Morpeth saw them drop out of the play-off positions into sixth and Colls are now four points ahead of them with a game in hand.
This Saturday Collieries are on their travels again when they play old rivals from their NCE League days AFC Mansfield, who are down in 15th place.
Pontefract will be looking to do the double over Mansfield after beating them 3-2 at home back in September.