DROITWICH Spa missed the chance to move three points clear at the top of Midland League Division Two after being held to a 1-1 draw by promotion rivals Paget Rangers.
After dominating the majority of the first half, the hosts had to wait until the first minute of first-half stoppage time to take the lead when Nick Seabourne curled home into the far corner.
But after the break, Rangers took the game by the scruff of the neck and their pressure was rewarded after 70 minutes when non-league stalwart Mark Bellingham beat the Saltmen’s offside trap before firing into an empty net to rescue a point for the visitors.
The result leaves Spa just one point ahead of second placed Alvis Sporting Club but they will feel it was two points dropped after a strong first-half display.
Following a scrappy start, the Saltmen eventually found their feet as Seabourne almost nosed the hosts ahead after ten minutes when he latched on to Jamie Smith’s throughball, rounded Rangers keeper Josh Benton before seeing a perfectly timed last-ditch tackle from Dean Crowley preventing a certain goal.
Five minutes later some more free-flowing football allowed Max Crisp to find Seabourne who was flagged up for offside.
But the Saltmen continued to press and following a fantastic run from inside his own half from Andrew Crowther after 29 minutes, Spa had a deep throw-in which eventually made its way to Seabourne who could not divert a powerful enough header on goal to break the deadlock.
Again Spa came forward, ensuring Rangers remained camped in their own half, and four minutes later Haydn Morris saw a header easily saved.
Rangers’ Matt Seeley was then stretchered off following a serious leg injury before Spa eventually got the breakthrough they deserved in the first minute of first-half stoppage time.
Once more Spa passed the ball around well as Luke Molloy ran down the left before finding Crisp whose clever reverse pass to Seabourne allowed Spa’s leading scorer to grab his 21st goal of the campaign as he cut inside his marker and finding the far corner.
Despite not registering a single shot in the first half, it took until the 65th minute for Rangers to get themselves into gear as their first meaningful attack forward saw Leon Weller break free down the right but he could only deliver a cross straight into the arms of Spa keeper Matthew Oliver.
Craig Evans then blasted over from 20 yards out before Mark Bellingham forced a good save out of Oliver a minute later only to see the offside flag go up.
But Bellingham beat the offside trap two minutes later as Billy Fagg’s clever throughball made it’s way to the prolific striker who made no mistake as he rounded Oliver before levelling things up.
After the setback, Spa almost regained the lead after 73 minutes when Seabourne ran on to a powerful Smith corner but could only head agonisingly wide of the top right-hand corner.
Rangers though, were looking the much stronger by this point as Junior Ikhouara saw a low shot saved at the near post with 12 minutes remaining before the resulting corner was desperately cleared.
The final ten minutes of the game proved to be a very nervy period for the Saltmen but they managed to hold out for a point.