RETFORD may be the top dogs in the NCEL Premier at the moment, but their credentials were given a stiff examination by Scarborough Athletic at Queensgate.
Boro’s second-half show should have been enough to secure all the points, but Retford somehow managed to cling on for a share of the spoils.
It was a topsy-turvy battle that ebbed and flowed in a host of different ways to keep the fans on their toes.
After initially finding themselves on the back foot, Boro did manage to seize the ascendancy with the clock poised on five minutes.
A raiding attack resulted in the ball falling to the feet of Bill Law. His drive at goal was wickedly deflected, sending it arrowing past a stranded Jason Fisher in the away goal.
Instead of hanging onto their advantage, Boro’s defence began to creak and Retford powered their way back into the proceedings.
Boro gained a nasty habit of giving away silly free-kicks in dangerous areas and that proved to be their downfall.
Adam Scott almost levelled things up on 15 minutes when his curling free-kick was headed off the line by Paddy Miller.
The result wasn’t as fortunate the second time when Matt Draper’s needless push sparked a toot on Stuart Royston’s whistle.
Rob Austin teased the ball into the near post and Warren Hatfield stooped to head home.
It took Retford less than 10 minutes to grab the advantage, as Boro’s defence parted and Hatfield drilled through keeper Kevin Martin.
Boro almost produced the perfect response, as Curtis Bernard galloped away and rounded the keeper, but he took the ball too wide and Retford managed to scramble clear.
His strike-partner Ryan Blott also went close, but instead of hitting the net from a free-kick, he tested the brick wall behind the goal.
The exertions of the first period looked to have taken its toll on Retford, as they looked to have little to give when the second half started.
They were thankful for the constant breaks signalled by a referee, who will have had a busy Saturday evening writing up nine unrequired yellow cards.
Draper was the first to turn up the pressure when he headed just wide and skipper Tony Hackworth followed this up with a strike that sailed just wide of the target.
It was always going to take something special to beat the sturdy Retford defence and their custodian Fisher, and the lively Jimmy Ghaichem produced it just after the hour.
Ghaichem jigged over a challenge to cut in from out wide on the left, and he let fly with a glorious effort that smashed against the underside of the bar before nestling in the net.
Boro’s Martin was on his toes as Retford looked for an immediate reply, saving well to deny Hatfield a hat-trick.
Martin almost undid Boro’s hard work minutes later when he spilled a Karl Slack shot, but Carl Snowden failed to convert.
Snowden then missed two opportunities from five yards to hand Retford an undeserved three points, but the Nottinghamshire side were shoved backwards once again in the closing stages.
Sub Wilf Dinsdale saw a quartet of shots blocked on the edge of the box, and Corey Nightingale had to be at full stretch to halt Blott’s run in on goal.
Boro could not penetrate for a third time though, bringing any lingering hopes of a title push to an end, though their performance certainly did bode well for the 2012-2013 campaign.