MARK Dunkley's strike just four minutes from time denied Frolesworth a much-needed win against promotion rivals Sunbury United, as the Rabbits had to settle for a share of the spoils in another entertaining clash at Dunley Way on Easter Sunday.
Sam Young had earlier given United the lead after just 14 minutes, when he played a neat short corner to Dominic Ivens before lashing home the opener, but Dunkley tapped home from close range to square things up in the second-half.
Callum Wills helped himself to his 14th goal of the campaign to poke Frolesworth's noses in front with just under 15 minutes remaining after Harry Simmons' incisive through ball, but Dunkley struck once again after Sam Green's marvelous double stop fell handsomely for him to extend the Rabbits' winless run to three games.
The result, however, still sends Ben Harris' side within just a point of local rivals Dunton & Broughton Rangers in the third and final promotion spot having played a game less, although United face all three sides above them in their remaining four league fixtures, requiring a further two wins to reach the magical 30 point landmark.
The Rabbits went into the game off the back of a disappointing 3-2 home defeat at the hands of in-form Niffy Rangers, their second consecutive reversal. And manager Harris’ defensive crisis continued, as right-back Sam Pratt, centre-halves Jack Boulton, Harvey Morgan and Nathan Bedford, and left-backs Jack Rudman and Max Hallam all remained sidelined.
Captain Mark James did, however, return to the fray alongside Josh Peel at the heart of defence, while Miles Spelvings and Martin Fennon continued as makeshift full-backs.
United persisted with their 4-2-3-1 formation, as Eddie Glaister made his first competitive start of the season at the expense of the injured Jake Pantony alongside Ivens. Jack Sutherland and Wills were employed on either flank, with the returning Young behind lone-wolf Joe Cook.
The bench comprised of Chairman Josh Baines, striker Simmons and utility man Joe Swanwick, though the latter mysteriously got changed barely minutes into the encounter before leaving Steve Rendall park altogether.
Attentions were soon turned back to on field matters though, when the hosts took the lead after just 14 minutes. Young has been a revelation in the four games he has featured in this season, having scored six goals and he added to that impressive tally with a powerful low drive, after exchanging passes with Ivens from a corner.
How valuable his services could prove to be in Frolesworth’s decisive run-in.
Equally as impressive at the other end though, was goalkeeper Green as he once again made a string of close-range stops to keep the visitors at bay. The 18-year-old has really grown in confidence in the past month or so, and he will almost certainly be a candidate for player of the season after another man of the match display here.
He did have to thank his woodwork, though, as the visitors came within a lick of paint of leveling after Green got the slightest of touches to push the ball away.
The upright also came to Sunbury’s rescue shortly before the interval, however, when Cook was desperately unlucky not to double the hosts’ advantage.
The former Coventry City man has been off the boil in front of goal lately, but you get the feeling his luck has deserted him as his attempted lob stumped the foot of the post with the keeper well beaten. Cook remains just one goal away from matching his record tally of 14 for the Rabbits and with four games still to play, he will be confident of securing his record haul to fire his side to promotion.
Harris was certainly the more content of the two managers at the break, although he warned his side that there would be more to come from the visitors as they searched for an equaliser. He did have to reshuffle the pack, too, as Peel was forced off with a groin strain, further adding to United’s defensive woes.
As a result, playmaker Ivens was dropped back to centre-half, a role he fulfilled in a 6-1 win at Glen Parva earlier this season. Young also moved backwards into the holding role alongside the tireless Glaister, meaning that Cook was in the hole behind substitute Simmons.
And the second-half substitute was involved in the game’s major flashpoint, too, when bearing down on goal, Simmons looked clearly to have been bundled over from behind. But Algerian referee Ali Ramezenkani ignored United’s protestations, to the disbelief of a once again furious Harris in the technical area.
However, in a game that ebbed and flowed from one end to the other, United always looked dangerous and they got their just rewards with just 14 minutes remaining when Wills smashed home his 14th goal of the season.
The 18-year-old striker has been utilised as winger for the majority of the season due to his combative work rate and devastating dribbling, but he still holds the mantle of top goalscorer and he showed his predatory instincts once again, latching on to Simmons’ delightful ball to slide home.
It looked for all the world that would be the most crucial goal of Frolesworth’s season, but a precious three points slipped through United’s grasp in the 86th minute, when the ball dropped inside the six-yard box for Dunkley to slam home the leveller.
And so having picked up just one point from the last available nine, United still remain six points shy of the 30-point landmark touted to get promotion, but Harris will certainly be rather more satisfied at the maner of this performance.
But the Rabbits could either sink or swim in their remaining four fixtures, which sees them face Throops (H), Star & Garter twice and Dunton & Broughton Rangers (A) on the final day, as their destiny is still ultimately in their own hands.
UNITED (4-2-3-1) GREEN 9 (MOM), SPLEVINGS 8, JAMES © 8, PEEL 8, FENNON 8, IVENS 8, GLAISTER 8, WILLS 8, SUTHERLAND 8, YOUNG 8, COOK 8
SUBS – SIMMONS 7
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