**CLEANSING SERVICES 3-3 FROLESWORTH UNITED**
FROLESWORTH United were forced to settle for a share of the spoils on Sunday morning, after surrendering a two-goal lead in a temperamental affair at Winders Court.
Assistant manager Jordan Halford was furious after the final whistle but said he was “extremely proud of his players,” after accusing Cleansing Services of “trying to kick his youngsters off the park.”
Captain Joe Cook notched his seventh goal of the campaign and Steven Bottom opened his account for the Rabbits either side of Jack Sutherland’s superb free kick, but further lacklustre defending from the visitors meant honours remained even on the day.
Injured striker Halford returned from the south coast ahead of an assessment on his knee injury at the East Sussex Eastbourne District hospital on Tuesday afternoon, while manager Ben Harris remained in Nottingham after guiding Frolesworth to the last 16 of the F.A Intermediate Cup last weekend.
Halford made just one enforced change to the side that won at Warwick Avenue last weekend and handed a second start to Notts County trialist Sutherland alongside Cook as he was without the services of two strikers.
Pacy youngster Miles Splevings was missing after flaring up a recurring groin strain, strike partner Sam Palmer was suffering from a chest infection and right-back Matt Pell was absent without due notice.
United, in their change strip of green and white hoops, started quickly and Sutherland flashed a free kick wide of the post after just two minutes.
The hosts themselves should have then taken the lead five minutes later, but blazed over from close range and at the other end, Cook burst through one-on-one but saw his effort beaten away.
But the former Coventry City striker wouldn’t have to wait long to make amends and he gave his side the lead in the 15th minute.
Greg Garner picked up the ball midway inside his own half and drove at the heart of the Services defence before slipping the ball through to Cook, who superbly dummied for the overlapping Pantony and the former converted the rebound after Pantony’s effort was parried.
The hosts then responded and twice went close from free headers in the box, but failed to hit the target with either, before Halford was forced to reshuffle the backline after the withdrawal of the injured Mark James on 24 minutes.
Steven Bottom moved into centre-half, with substitute Josh Baines being employed on the left of a five-man midfield comprising of Martin Finnigan, Pantony, Garner and Cook on the right behind lone-striker Sutherland.
But the change didn’t deter United and they came close to doubling their advantage and perhaps should have, Sutherland again the tormentor, firstly seeing his attempted dink palmed over the crossbar before heading over from the subsequent corner.
And the hosts hauled themselves onto level terms against the run of play, as neither Pantony, Bottom nor Jack Boulton could prevent the tricky number 8 from levelling the scores with consummate ease in the 34th minute.
The Clarets’ response came immediately through Finnigan, who saw his effort scrambled off the goal line after another sumptuous through ball from Sutherland and an action packed end to the first period began.
The Cleansing goal scorer was involved in a touchline fracas with Halford moments later, when he attempted to head but the Assistant Manager who was furious with a challenge on Baines on the edge of the box.
Somehow escaping without being booked, Sutherland, who was at the hub of every Frolesworth activity, duly punished his opponent with a delightful, curling free kick in to the top corner to the visible pleasure of his manager.
Cleansing’s number 8 then finally received a booking after an atrocious two-footed lunge on Baines once again, before the Rabbits completed a superb four-minute double salvo via Bottom’s first goal for the club, after Sutherland’s pin-point corner.
Halford would have been forgiven for thinking his side had established a two-goal cushion heading into the dressing room at half-time but they conceded a sloppy second at the back post straight from kick-off.
Frolesworth, however, continued to look threatening on the counter-attack and Garner came close to notching a fourth for the visitors at the start of the second period after Pantony’s intelligent quick free kick had set him free down the right.
Halford then looked to set his stall out to protect what his side had got as United continued to frustrate their hosts, but the inevitable equaliser in a largely uneventful second half came with just ten minutes remaining.
Goalkeeper Luke Evans was rooted to his line as the Frolesworth defence were caught napping from a routine long ball and the hosts snatched what looked an unlikely point to spark an immediate inquest amongst the visiting players.
The drama wasn’t over there though, as Baines was involved in a skirmish with Cleansing’s number 15, who was booked, whilst the aggressive number 8 again raised his hands to the Frolesworth left-back and should have been dismissed.
There was still time for Greg Garner to race through on goal, but his effort trickled agonisingly off the upright and late substitute Matt Errington’s follow-up was ruled out for offside.
Frolesworth Assistant Manager Halford refused to shake hands with his opponents at full-time and stormed into the changing rooms, but he will ultimately be pleased and proud of a battling and much-deserved point away from home, which sees Frolesworth just a point behind last season's tally after just six games.
For Every Man A Religion.
The People's Club.