RETFORD United began the new year with a point at home to fellow promotion hopefuls Parkgate, despite leading against 10 men.
Brett Marshalls’ men were held 1-1 at Cannon Park after taking a first half lead through Carl Haslam.
The striker had returned to the side after suspension kept him out of the Boxing Day clash against Lincoln Moorlands, and he was quickly back in the action, crossing early for Warren Hatfield, but the United top scorer couldn’t get to the ball.
Hatfield looked to increase his impressive goal tally, a shot from outside the box from distance sailing just over the bar.
Adam Scott managed to get through the Parkgate defence and went down after a slight touch, but the referee was in a good position and waved away any appeals for a free-kick, but set Parkgate off onto the attack winning a corner at the opposite end, Jason Fisher rising to pluck the ball out of the air from the set piece.
Ashley Worsfold caught Steve Carty late giving United a free-kick just outside the centre circle, the ball was played in by Dave Issott to Hatfield whose glancing header was only a fraction wide.
A key point if the game came on 35 minutes, as United were preparing to take a throw in, the referee blew his whistle and immediately paced into the box to show a straight red card to Liam Davis of Parkgate after he had seen the defender swing a leg at Haslam.
It was only 60 seconds later that Retford took the lead, and good work from Chris Baugh allowed him to cut the ball inside from the byline for Haslam to fire home past the keeper.
Parkgate had their first real effort on goal when Worsfold’s shot ran the wrong side of the post as he looked to take his side into the interval level.
To their credit, with only 10 men, Parkgate set their stall out immediately from the start of the second half with a drive from distance going over Fishers’ crossbar.
Scott tried to find the target as United cut open the defence, but his effort went wide, whilst the pressure continued at the opposite end when Nathan Forbes-Swindells drilled in a low shot that had Fisher diving to his right to fingertip the ball round the post for a corner.
United found it hard to make the man advantage count and were struggling to find the target as Parkgate continued to push, Forbes-Swindells again with a chance, a free-kick hit over.
Haslam managed to break through on a couple of occasions, but he was hounded out, then Scott got through again, this chance being hit behind the goal as the frustration mounted around the ground.
All the pressure for Parkgate paid off when a free-kick from the right hand side was floated into the box and over the crowded area into the back of the net by substitute Joe Leesely who had only just come onto the field.
With the scores level, and a matter of minutes left to play, Retford pushed for the winner, Haslam brought down in the box for a very strong penalty appeal, but the flag stayed down, then right at the death Hatfield was challenged by the keeper as he bore down on goal, but the tackle was deemed to be 50/50 and the game ended all square.
With other results of the afternoon all going in favour of the teams at the top, the match next Saturday away at Tadcaster Albion takes on even more significance as the West Riding side move to within two points of the Badgers with two games in hand.