TYRONE Kirk grabbed a controversial 88th-minute equaliser to earn Boston United a 1-1 draw with Corby Town.
In the dying moments, the Pilgrims substitute appeared to have wasted a golden opportunity to level, firing his effort from six yards out straight at Corby defender James Ozmen, who was stood on the goal line.
But the referee’s assistant flagged to signal the ball had crossed the line.
United celebrated. The Steelmen surrounded the officials, protesting that Kirk’s strike had not been a goal.
However, referee Guy Stretton – who had a night to forget – ruled that the goal should stand.
Kirk’s goal was welcome relief for United who had spent the evening frustrating onlookers with their wasteful finishing and selfish shooting against a side who were reduced to 10 men and awarded two penalties.
Corby were gifted the chance to take the lead moments before the interval after Alan White was adjudged to have fouled Corby’s burley striker Matt Rhead in the penalty area.
But Paul Bastock was more than equal to Rhead’s weakly-struck strike, which he smothered on the line.
On 65 minutes, Corby were reduced to 10 men as Phil Gulliver received a straight red for a wild lunge on United’s Ian Ross.
But the visitors continued to press and were granted their second penalty on 78 minutes after Sam Mullarkey went down after close attention from Tom Ward.
This time, substitute Jean-Paul Marna stepped up and converted the spot kick, firing hard and low to Bastock’s right.
It appeared that the game was slipping away from United, especially after a frantic spell of possession saw the players waste too many opportunities with selfish shots from distance.
But the side’s blushes, and perhaps Kirk’s as well, were spared by a late linesman’s flag.
Corby began the evening four points and places above United, but from the off the Pilgrims looked the superior side... except in front of goal.
Early on, Ryan Semple found himself in four golden positions to score, but failed to hit the target, while Jason Lee saw his header directed too close to Corby keeper Jack Drury.
Drury, the nephew of Steelmen manager Graham, was drafted in at the last minute as regular stopper Chris Mackenzie was stranded in Nottingham after his car broke down.
But the stand-in was not really tested until the second half when Ross twice forced him into good blocks.
Lee again went close twice, seeing one header blocked on the line by Paul Malone and a second strike the bar.
But despite these chances, United were guilty of squandering too many good positions.
Ben Milnes, Ross and Kirk were repeatedly guilty of taking weak and frustrating pot shots from distance when unmarked teammates were in better situations on the overlaps.
Danny Sleath also chipped in with a few wild strikes from the edge of the penalty area.
At the other end, Corby had chances of their own, sporadically.
Bastock made a superb save to fist away Malone’s powerful header, created by the long throw of Paul Mayo.
Rhead, meanwhile also brought a block from the Boston number one, before the forward also headed a good chance over the crossbar.
UNITED: Bastock, J. Fairclough (Newsham 79), Austin, Milnes, White, Ward, Semple, Sleath, Lee, B. Fairclough (Kirk 60), Ross; Subs (not used): Edwards, Hall, Canoville.
CORBY: Drury, Gordon, Mayo, Malone, Gulliver, Ozmen, Beeson (Hibbert 40), Towers, Rhead (Smith 62), Mullarkey, Hall (Marna 39); Subs (not used): Dessou, Spruce.
Ref: Guy Stretton.