HUNTINGDON Town had to work hard to take all three points from Eynesbury Rovers at Jubilee Park on Saturday.
Two-nil up within 25 minutes, the home side threatened to overrun their Huntingdonshire neighbours – but Eynesbury replied just before the break to set up what would be a tough and tetchy second half.
The previous weekend, at Hall Road, the United Counties Division One sides had shared the points after Rovers had fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2. This time the score remained 2-1 in the second period with the game threatening to boil over and Eynesbury striker Lee Bassett seeing red.
Huntingdon made their breakthrough in the 21st minute after dominating their visitors from the off. Striker Niks Savalnieks was pulled back in the box and Declan Rogers smashed the ball into the far right-hand corner of Carl Mackney’s goal from the penalty spot.
Just four minutes later Jack Warwick – who Huntingdon signed from Eynesbury earlier this season – fired in a low drive from the edge of the area to make it 2-0.
“For the first half an hour in particular I thought we were dominant,” said the Huntingdon manager Ricky Marheineke. “We kept the ball well and created chances but unfortunately we didn’t capitalise on them.
“I know we took another two-goal lead but I think at that stage we should have been four or five up.”
Indeed, Huntingdon went close at least five times before they struck the first blow. Stuart Eason had two great chances but was denied by Mackney and then the bar, while a Rogers’ free kick narrowly missed its target.
But Huntingdon looked on top despite not adding to their total – so it was a surprise when goalkeeper Dave Beeny was only able to push out a Bassett shot and Tom Coles followed up to make it 2-1.
“As soon as they got the goal back they were back in the game and it made it a little bit difficult,” said Marheineke.
Eynesbury manager Paul Dodson said: “We showed a lot of spirit in the second half. It’s just a shame we have to go 2-0 down before showing that kind of spirit.
“We are scratching our heads at the moment – we can’t explain why we are starting games so slowly.”
In the opening minutes of the second half Huntingdon’s Dan Drane had a good opportunity to score but dragged his shot wide, and Ricky Dear tried his luck from distance but was off target.
For the resurgent visitors, David Fisk shot over the bar from 18 yards and Bassett was twice was set up by Fisk, only for Beeny to save both of his shots.
Just three minutes from the end Bassett was shown a second yellow card after making a comment to an assistant linesman.
Dodson said: “I thought the players handled themselves well – being a local derby it was a hard but fair game. Lee held his hands up, he was disappointed and it isn’t in his character.”
The win meant that second-placed Huntingdon kept themselves within two points of leaders Harborough Town – but it was Harborough’s 1-0 defeat of third-placed Rushden & Higham United that further opened up the gap below Huntingdon to 11 points.
“There’s still a long way to go, we have 11 games left and we have Harborough next week,” said Marheineke. That’s a six-pointer if ever there was one, then. Eighth-placed Eynesbury will be looking to get back on track with a home game against second-from-bottom Silbey Rangers.