Lancaster City were left dejected on Saturday as New Mills nicked a late winner to claim all three points at Giant Axe.
While this was a different Millers side that the Dolly Blues thrashed 6-0 in the FA Trophy earlier in the campaign it was an infinitely winnable game and had City taken their chances they would have done just so.
However a somewhat ragged display and some poor finishing let the game run right to the wire and Dalton McLaughlin struck a sweet strike with just added time left to play to leave Darren Peacock’s men heartbroken.
The warning signs that the visitors could actually play were there in the opening twenty minutes as they pulled City’s defence apart but showcased some woeful finishing of their own.
They struck wide four times in said period, Michael Fish and Daniel Grimshaw being their main protagonists and when City finally found second gear it looked like they would make them pay for that.
However they found that killer touch just a hairsbreadth away, Dave Swarbrick was the first to miss the target as he raced through on goal with the ball bouncing ahead of him but steered wide of the ‘keeper and the goal from six yards. Gavin Clark then powered a header just wide from a Ryan Elderton corner after he had made a good run and rose well.
In defence of both sides the stormy weather and heavy pitch made free-flowing football difficult and the only other effort of note in a tepid first 45 was a decent strike from visiting Captain Daniel Douglas-Pringle which was comfortably saved by Mike Hale.
Hale showed exactly why he has kept Danny McDonald on the bench in the second half when he made a terrific reaction save when moving the wrong way to deny Fish what looked like a certain goal.
Not to be outdone Peter Collinge had already showed his class in the Millers’ net tipping a Swarbrick header over the bar after he had met a terrific Simon Wills cross.
Wills, again in at full-back for the unwell Rob Henry, was a tour de force for the Dolly Blues. Driving them forward and crunching into tackles to will them on he deserved his man of the match billing.
City had started the half brightly, stringing passes together for the first time with some nice link up play between Mark Jackson, Swarbrick and Ryan Winder.
Danny Mahoney had a shot from range go narrowly wide of the post and then Jackson missed a sitter from six yards heading a Winder cross from the left just wide. City continued to apply the pressure needed to force the issue but it was just not their forwards’ day, Swarbrick missed a couple more as the clock ticked down, pulling across the goal with no one to finish and shooting wide from a tight angle.
The almost inevitable killer blow came with minutes left; McLaughlin found space on the edge of the box and after the ball broke loose and sat up for him just right for the half volley he lashed it past Hale.
Not to be put down to easily the Dolly Blues continued to surge forward and forced two corners in added time that they narrowly failed to convert, the last bite at the cherry with Hale in the box to add to the confusion was tamely cleared off the line.
Despite the difficult conditions and scrappy play the Dolly Blues can take heart that their spirit and guts meant they were never out of this game, the chance to put things right comes quickly as Clitheroe visit Giant Axe on Tuesday.
Lancaster City: Hale 6, Wills 7, Elderton 5, Clark 5, Marshall 6, Walker 6 (Akrigg 85), Winder 6, Mahoney 5, Swarbrick 5, Jackson 6, Kilifin 5 (Donnelly 68)
Subs not used: Steel, MacDonald
Referee: Kevin Sarsfield
Starman: Simon Wills – Dominated his winger and managed to drive forward too, a gutsy display