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Gainsborough Trinity 2 Worcester City 2
IN the end, Worcester City gave themselves just too much to do.
They travelled to Gainsborough knowing nothing less than victory would suffice to keep their play-off hopes alive and came up agonisingly short.
After twice falling behind at Northolme, Tom Thorley’s penalty six minutes from time gave them a lifeline.
But, try as they did, City could not fashion the winner that would have set up a grandstand finale to the season this weekend.
It might have been different had Greg Mills not fired horribly wide from six yards moments before Thorley’s spot kick but the task ultimately proved too much.
A task that had been made that much tougher by only managing a 1-1 draw against Hinckley United at St George’s Lane the week before.
Had they won that, last Saturday’s point, a good result under normal circumstances, might have been enough.
But City went to Gainsborough still in the hunt for the top five and battled to the bitter end, finishing the game camped in Trinity territory.
There will be disappointment and, inevitably, recent dropped points against Hinckley and Stalybridge, and January’s gut-wrenching defeat at Halifax, will be cited as ‘the ones that got away’.
Yet, in the cold light of day, they will be able to reflect on one of the best City campaigns for many years.
Having got themselves in the mix, Worcester wanted more, that’s only human nature but, whatever happens against Workington at the Lane on Saturday, Carl Heeley’s team are virtually guaranteed to finish seventh.
They can’t be caught by eighth-placed Altrincham and their goal difference is hugely inferior to Stalybridge in sixth.
That’s a good season in anyone’s book, made even more remarkable by City being joint-favourites for relegation back in August, along with league champions Hyde. Who said the bookies rarely get it wrong?
City have defied the odds for most of the season and had every reason to feel they could triumph at Trinity having out-played them in last month’s 2-1 win at the Lane.
They might even have felt at home on a pitch significantly worse than their own and that had been under water just hours before kick-off following monsoon conditions in Lincolnshire.
The hosts, though, needed three points themselves to be sure of a play-off spot and were the dominant force in the first-half.
Worcester had plenty of defending to do and could have been behind before Leon Mettam struck, after his initial shot had been saved by Matt Sargeant following Kevin Sandwith’s free-kick.
Mills got them back on level terms following a tidy one-two with Thorley.
But the visitors fell foul of a second Sandwith set-piece on the stroke of half-time as Luke Waterfall headed home.
Their odds ever lengthening, City were forced to gamble in the second-half, replacing the largely anonymous Phil Green with Danny Edwards.
Mike Symons put in the hard yards but his trademark flick-ons were predominantly to Gainsborough defenders as the continued absence of speedster Michael Taylor was exposed.
Chances came and went before Thorley gave them hope with his sixth penalty of the season, but it wasn’t enough.
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