Lacklustre Town lose top spot after Rangers defeat

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Having already secured a top-two finish, Town put in a somewhat lacklustre performance as they slipped to their fourth league defeat of the season.

Rangers - also defeated only four times in this campaign - showed why they have the tightest defence in the league as they maintain their quest to finish in third place in the league table.

On a very narrow and bumpy pitch, Town began by penning Rangers back and setting up a series of half-chances by hurling long throws into the area.

However, it was Rangers who took the lead with their first attack after eight minutes, a long diagonal ball bouncing and allowing Steve McLoughlin to net from a tight angle.

Things got worse for Town on 14 minutes when Ryan Jackson was judged to have fouled Danny Furlong, and skipper Sam Sherwood slammed the ball into the net from the spot.

Town got back into the game within minutes, Neil Fryirs sending Ben Luntley away down the right to square for Jamie Bradshaw to tap in.

Following a corner, Jamie Patterson headed the ball powerfully goalwards but home keeper Andy Greer was well positioned to cling on. Luntley then smacked the ball against the bar and saw his rebound scrambled off the line.

Bradshaw set up another long-range shot for Fryirs, then Sean Exley anticipated the bounce of a long ball to divert its path goalwards but Greer was again the right place to pull off a save.

Town’s pressure finally told after 38 minutes when a Fryirs shot was blocked but Baz Gill swivelled to hit the back of the net from 10 yards out.

Rangers took the lead on 48 minutes when a free-kick was hoisted into the Town penalty area by Adam Wright.

The ball took a wicked bounce in front of Darrol Lewis and somehow found its way through the keeper to bobble over the line.

Luntley beat his man and clipped a delightful cross which evaded his teammates, then a Fryirs free-kick was punched away one-handed by Greer.

After a scramble in the Rangers box had been half-cleared, man-of-the-match Patterson headed the ball back into the danger area for Luntley to turn the ball home, but he was offside.

Patterson was then felled on the edge of the area Fryirs hit the free kick on target but Greer saved well.

A Gill header brought a good save from Greer, then a Patterson piledriver was blocked by his own teammate.

With Town piling forward, Rangers had several breakaways which were dealt with by Ricky Nock and Tony Pickles, but the home team’s tempers boiled over in the final few minutes.

Firstly Exley was the victim of a strong challenge by a Rangers player, then Luntley went for a ball and nicked it away from Greer, only for the keeper to grab hold of the Town forward and man-handle him.

Again the referee took only verbal action before bizarrely restarting the game with a dropped ball rather than the obvious penalty kick.

Town therefore did not claim a point, which would have been deserved, and as a result have slipped behind Bransholme Athletic at the top.

This sets the scene nicely for Saturday’s top-two battle at McCain Sports Ground at 2pm.