“IT looks like it’s going to be a long day,” exclaimed Radcliffe’s former Manchester United goalkeeper Nick Culkin to a smattering of Tigers fans behind the goal just five minutes into Saturday’s FA Trophy game.
He wasn’t wrong – but instead of receiving the hiding he was expecting, the 33-year-old goalkeeper and his side were let off the hook to fight another day on a bizarre afternoon at Stainton Park.
By the time the affable Culkin had introduced himself to the travelling support, he should have picked the ball out of the net three times. But the 33-year-old was having one of those days that makes you wonder why he isn’t still playing football a lot higher up the pyramid, and much more wastefulness was to follow.
Culkin’s resolve was finally broken from the penalty spot after 68 minutes after a rather soft penalty award for Kris King’s challenge on Mark Hudson, who then kept his cool from 12 yards.
That should have sparked a landslide, but instead referee Mr Duncan levelled things up with an equally bad award at the other end as James Cotterill was punished for an apparent push in Steve Howson’s back.
Boro arguably had a better claim turned down a few moments later when John Worsnop felled Ben Wharton, but thankfully the minor inconvenience of a replay wasn’t replaced by the full scale disaster of defeat.
In truth, the game should have been out of sight by the time the sun started to dip behind Radcliffe’s faltering floodlights.
Marc Roberts saw one header pushed off the line by Culkin and another shot blocked brilliantly by Andy Parry inside the first few minutes, while Massiah McDonald was also denied by some last-gasp defending.
Boro might have scored with their first attack, as Tom Brooks got his chip over the advancing Worsnop horribly wrong.
But normal service was quickly resumed, and Culkin rolled back the years with impressive reaction saves from McDonald and Luke Shiels.
It seemed only a matter of time before the floodgates opened, yet time and time again the Tigers failed to kill off their prey.
Jamie Jackson – playing a stone’s throw from his half-brother Kevin Davies’s stomping ground at the Reebok Stadium – wasted the last chance of the half, curling a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
The standard of football in the second half degenerated significantly from a Tigers’ perspective, as the frustration grew.
Boro continued to bely their lowly league status with some hardy defending, but you couldn’t help but think some more selfish choices in front of goal would certainly have paid dividends.
Always looking to play one pass too many, Jackson, McDonald and sub Danny Davidson will all wonder how they didn’t head back with a goal to their name.
The penalty really was a gift from referee Duncan, accepted gratefully by Hudson, but just five minutes later the anger was shared as Dave Sherlock tucked the equaliser into the bottom corner.
Worksop still had chances to snatch the game, as Jackson squeezed a shot inches wide and McDonald somehow fluffed his lines at the far post from Chris Wood’s cross.
“I don’t even want a replay,” smirked Culkin to the same gathering of Tigers fans behind his goal in the dying minutes of the game.
He certainly had a funny way of showing it.