Scarborough Athletic’s play-off ambitions were dealt a huge hammer blow in West Yorkshire on Saturday afternoon.
Gone was the grit and determination that was so evident when Boro beat Spennymoor just a week earlier, as Athletic slipped badly on Ossett Albion’s banana skin.
The 3-1 defeat may have flattered Ossett slightly, but they deserved their victory due to the fact that they out-battled and possibly out-played the previously in-form Boro side.
The conditions with a gusting gale-force wind and a pitch like a ploughed field ruled out and hope of flowing football, though that was certainly no excuse for Bryan Hughes and Paul Foot’s men.
Prior to kick-off they were boosted by the return of Ryan Blott in attack and defender Matty Plummer. New boy Alex Metcalfe also took his place on the bench.
Buoyed by the wind at their backs, Boro set about Ossett in confident style.
It seemed a calculator would be needed as the hosts found themselves pinned back by the tempestuous gales and Boro’s pressing.
James Bennett was the first to go close when his wicked effort sailed just the wrong side of Neil Bennett’s post.
Then Jimmy Beadle, moved into an attacking role for the afternoon, showed why he is threatening at the right end of the division’s goalscoring charts this season.
The ball dropped nicely for him 35 yards from goal and quick-as-a-flash he smashed it into the top corner of the Ossett net.
Gary Bradshaw had the chance to all-but kill off Ossett just a few minutes later when he burst into the area, but his powerful drive skimmed the top of the bar and crashed into the stand that was filled with vocal Boro fans.
When Ossett worked out that they needed to keep the ball on the deck, the experience of former Guiseley and Worksop striker Adam Muller soon began to cause a few concerns for a Boro defence who just seemed off the pace.
That point was proved when Ben Middleton’s back-pass sold keeper Joe Cracknell short, Muller nipped in and cut back for Nicholas Matthews, who just couldn’t miss.
Boro seemed to freeze as the snow began to fall on the bleak hills of Ossett and the hosts soon took advantage for a second time.
Luke Sharry horribly mis-hit a shot into the path of Dominic Riordan, who poked home to hand Ossett the lead. The fortune of the goal still didn’t allow Boro’s back-line any defence though, as they all stopped and stared as the situation happened around them.
That goal brought a terrible half of football to a close, though unfortunatley for the Boro supporters there was more of this torture to come after the interval.
Ossett began to take control, using the wind wisely. They were unlucky not to stretch their lead when Kane Reece drilled just past the upright.
The hosts finally drove the luxury of a cushion between the sides with 10 minutes of the second half played.
Boro were caught on a counter down their right and nippy full-back Ross Hardaker easily cut in and placed the ball into the net with an angled drive.
Hughes and Foot opted for change, with Pete Davidson and Metcalfe being thrown into the action.
The enterprise of former Harrogate Town man Metcalfe allowed him to depart the pitch as one of the few Boro players able to hold their head up high.
The diminutive midfielder created some space for Blott seconds after his arrival, but the striker’s effort struck the top of the bar.
Then Bradshaw found room in the area, though the sidenetting took the full brunt of his low strike.
Despite Hughes coming on for a short cameo, Boro lacked the invention required to break Ossett down for a second time, and the game finished with a whimper.
Boro will have to step things up once again if they want to be in with a shout of launching a successful play-off bid.