LANCASTER City were somehow left feeling disappointed on Saturday, despite holding league leaders Curzon Ashton to a draw at Giant Axe.
Such was their dominant and quite brilliant second-half performance that a point felt like it should have been three as City proved they could mix it with the league’s best.
Curzon had only lost once, the previous weekend at resurgent AFC Fylde, and boast one of the meanest defences in the league – conceding just 13 goals before visiting the Axe – but they were made to look ordinary by an inspired Alex Meaney and his City teammates.
The young forward was superb – a mixture of skill and vision – and he very nearly provided the winner, shaking off some heavy tackles and bizarre officiating to inspire a Dolly Blue onslaught.
His curling second-half free-kick looked goal bound before Joshua Ollerenshaw tipped it onto the post; Alex Kenyon reacted quickest but hammered the rebound over the bar.
Another in-swinging free-kick moments later was met by Kenyon again, this time after a brilliant run behind the back of the defence, he stretched out a leg but could not keep his effort down, a difficult chance.
How Meaney picked up a booking for being wrestled to the ground inside the box, judo-style, by the beleaguered full-back Simon Woodford only referee Bob Roberts knows, the penalty shout looked decent, as did substitute Lee Dodgson’s minutes from the end after his footwork had bamboozled the Curzon defence.
There was to be another golden chance to take the lead after a great cross from Ryan Elderton picked out Dave Swarbrick in space in the box, the striker chose to take it early with his head when he perhaps could have brought it down and his header went wide.
The goals, both coming in an evenly fought first-half, were both very different and very brilliant.
Curzon took the lead after 19 minutes. City had looked excellent and dominant in the opening quarter of an hour without troubling the visitor’s net and they were made to pay.
After ignoring both sides’ defenders pushing and shoving strikers in the opening exchanges, Mr Roberts then awarded a free-kick for such an offence from Danny Gregson on Kristian Dennis.
The free-kick was taken quickly, catching City cold and picking out Matty Kay on the left.
His cross was met by Michael Fish, free inside the box, and his side-footed volley left Martin Fearon for dead.
City had their own stunner to equalise. Kenyon may later come to miss the target from closer range but he won’t score many better volleys than this.
After a Rob Henry cross was poorly cleared by the Curzon defence, the ball fell to Kenyon about 25 yards out, his first touch got away from him but his determination got it back.
It sat up nicely for a left-footed volley which he smashed into Ollerenshaw’s top right corner.
It was a lifting performance for the Dolly Blues and a brave one, they lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Meaney, Swarbrick and Hattersley up top which left Kenyon, Simon Wills and Michael Hall to do a lot of work in the middle.
Wills covered right across the pitch in front of his defence while Kenyon not only bossed the middle in the air but provided aggression to stifle Curzon’s midfield.
Hall, the season’s benchwarmer and leader of Twitter banter, was brilliant, doing all the basics very correctly and providing a different angle of pass and a different idea going forward.
It was Meaney’s afternoon though and he nearly had a goal early doors after a great first touch danced him into the box for him to round the ’keeper and shoot wide from a narrow angle.
He then went close again when, after admirably ignoring some heavy tackles and cynical fouls, he kept his head, delivered two excellent free-kicks and had the guile and talent to provide an edge in City’s attacks.
The point keeps the Dolly Blues in touch with joint leaders Curzon and Skelmersdale United who sit six points above fourth placed City. Fylde sit just behind with two games in hand.
There may be a trip to Warrington on Saturday and a Boxing Day clash with Clitheroe first but the New Year clash with Fylde on January 2 looks to be a mouth-watering affair for the Dolly Blues.
Lancaster City: Fearon 6, Henry 7, Elderton 8, Marshall 7, Gregson 7, Kenyon 8, Swarbrick 7 (Clark 79), Wills 8, Hattersley 7, Meaney 9 (Dodgson 82), Hall 8 (Wood 89)
Subs not used: Rothwell, Egerton-Wilson
Curzon Ashton: Ollerenshaw, Woodford, Hampson, Watson, Young, Edgehill, Kay, Walker, Fish (Settle 83), Dennis, Purcell (Weston 77)
Subs not used: Blackshaw, Nightingale, Haslam
Referee: Bob Roberts
Starman: Alex Meaney – A skilful and eye-catching performance with near perfect end result