Clinical finishing, bad luck and haphazard refereeing decisions saw Gloucester City defeated against Skrill North league leaders Hednesford Town at Keys Park.
The eventual scoreline flatters to deceive as the Tigers matched their lofty opponents for much of the contest and on another day could’ve produced a result.
Two suckerpunches from Jamey Osborne before the break roared City into action and after Tyler Weir’s penalty brought the Tigers back to life; the Pitmen were on the ropes.
Referee Mark Ackerman failed to award City a stonewall penalty after Darren Campion had brought Joe Parker to the floor, and minutes later gave the hosts a dubious spotkick which ended Dave Mehew’s sides revival.
Neil Harvey smashed home a fourth in stoppage time as the pacesetters condemned City to a seventh winless league game in a row.
Elliott Durrell, the Skrill North’s most potent marksman, worried keeper Mike Green after 22 minutes but a smart save denied the midfielder.
City’s first opportunity came shortly after with a tame Mat Liddiard header stopped by Dan Crane.
Two pieces of brilliance from Osborne then sparked a tepid game into life; firstly a strike from outside the area that clipped the inside of the post and rolled in to send Hednesford ahead.
Then came a wonderful run from deep, through the City defence and struck low past Green for a superb solo effort and sent the Pitmen 2-0 up.
It could’ve been three in first half injury time but Green pushed Harvey’s bullet header onto the bar and over.
The Tigers came out for the second half with intention and on 51 minutes John Disney clumsily brought down Scott Wilson in the box, for Weir to divert home to cut the deficit.
City kept on coming and a fantastic save from Crane denied Liddiard’s header.
Mehew’s side were on the up and substitute Parker unleashed his youthful exuberance on the game, an injection of speed bewildered captain Darren Campion who clipped the 18-year-old in the box; and much to the chagrin of City’s sizable away following, no penalty was given.
Scott Wilson, City’s major threat in front of goal this season, saw two efforts pass him by in quick succession; firstly after Tom Webb’s shot across goal only last ditch defending cleared when the teenager was ready to strike.
This was followed by a header over the bar, moulded by great work on the right by Morford.
The hosts were awarded a penalty with 10 minutes remaining after Matt Coupe had dubiously held onto a Hednesford shirt in the box; Durrell stepped up and slotted home with aplomb.
The City resistance had been broken but Wilson and Parker both tested Crane late with attempts at goal.
The game was concluded with Harvey clattering the ball into Green’s net two minutes into injury time to seal a seemingly comfortable victory.
Hednesford Town: D. Crane, J. Disney, D. Campion, B. Bailey (Regan 49), F. Francis, A. Melbourne (Macpherson 74), J. Osborne, E. Durrell, N. Harvey, Michael Lennon (Riley 65), Kris Taylor
Subs Not Used: N. Woolfe, R. Thompson-Brown
Goals: Osborne 39, 44, Durrell 80, Harvey 90+2
Gloucester City: M. Green, S. Rawlings, T. Weir, M. Coupe, J. Harris (Green 72), T. Webb, M. Liddiard, D. Mullings, W. Morford, S. Wilson, S. Turl (Parker 64)
Subs Not Used: M. Groves, D. Edwards, N. Mustoe
Goals: Weir 51 (pen)