Andy Peaks declared himself “really pleased” with a point as AFC Rushden & Diamonds struck late in the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division showdown at Holbeach United.
Diamonds were facing the prospect of seeing their lead at the top of the table cut to five points by the second-place Tigers, who have four games in hand, as they trailed to Jamie Clarke’s 22nd-minute strike.
The hosts had a late effort ruled out for offside and then, as the game moved into stoppage-time, Russ Dunkley beat the offside trap and coolly lobbed home the equaliser.
It means it’s a case of as you were at the top with Diamonds still holding that eight-point advantage while Holbeach have the games in hand to overhaul them.
But boss Peaks was content with his team’s late show as he admitted the much-awaited clash was more of a battle rather than a spectacle.
“I think it was always going to be a battle when both teams had so much to play for,” Peaks said.
“The pitch was very heavy and there were never going to be a lot of goal attempts.
“So when they got one early on, it made us chase the game and they slowed it down at every opportunity. It was always going to be difficult after that but to come away with a point, I am really pleased.
“With these sort of games, on a good pitch they are normally really open.
“But on that pitch, they were happy to sit back when they got the goal and it turned into a real battle.
“It probably wasn’t a great advert for the league football-wise. It wasn’t a classic to watch but when it is that close, it keeps people on the edge of their seats.
“We probably gave them too much respect in the first half. We sat back to see what they had but, as bad as we played, they still didn’t create a lot.
“I just said at half-time that we needed to have a go. We needed to put a fight up and create some chances.
“I thought we upped it. We bossed it in the second half. We got the goal late on and I thought we were worthy of a point over the 90 minutes.”
Peaks, meanwhile, hopes Dunkley’s late show will give his team some “momentum” going into their final 14 matches as they attempt to claim the title.
He added: “I knew their effort was offside so I certainly wasn’t as excited as they were!
“But when things like that happen, you think to yourself ‘we might get a chance here’.
“And fair play to Russ. He has been out for a while but he took it really well.
“That goal could give us a bit of momentum. We will take that into our next games.”