Photo: John Hirst
MARKO BASIC struck a delightful late free-kick to rescue a point for Ossett United away at fellow strugglers Widnes (2-2).
Elliott Harrison had given United the lead but two Widnes goals saw them behind at the break and, as the clock ticked down, it looked like they were set for a fifth defeat in a row.
However, Basic brilliantly curled a set-piece past the goalkeeper two minutes from time to put Ossett six points clear of Pickering Town in the BetVictor Northern Premier N/West Division relegation place.
Recent departures left United with an inexperienced backline and they were tied in knots early on by Jamie Rainford, who beat two before smashing the ball against the crossbar.
Ossett top scorer Tom Greaves got his first chance when he cut back only to be denied by Richie Mottram in the Widnes goal, and the hosts countered with Scott Moloney required to make a fine save to deny James Murray.
The sides were pretty even but the breakthrough came United’s way on the half-hour mark. A clearance fell to Harrison on the edge of the area, and the midfielder took one touch before rifling the ball high into the net.
That lead would last only six minutes as Rainford poked the ball in at the back post after a short corner was crossed in by Jay Roberts and no defender could clear.
Nick Guest sliced a big chance wide when the ball was placed into his feet and Ossett were punished for that lack of composure when a Ryan Jennings through-ball cut them open, James Steele squared and Murray finished.
There were few real chances for Ossett to get back into the game in the second half after Greaves had seen his header cleared off the line shortly after the break.
James Knowles’s exit left them with one recognised defender in the closing stages as he was replaced by Rahul Ho-Shing, an Under-16s striker who made his debut and did well in the final minutes.
It looked like an equaliser was unlikely though, until former United skipper Alex McQuade gave away a free-kick 22 yards from goal and Basic did what he does best to sweetly find the top corner.
The draw was far from secure as goalkeeper Moloney, on loan from Huddersfield, had to make two vital stops at the death. First he denied Jack Banister after a Widnes break, and then he palmed the ball away from Ben Hodkinson in injury-time.
Ossett face two more away games in the coming week, travelling to promotion-chasing Marske United tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 3pm) before a Tuesday-night trip to Workington for their re-arranged League Cup third-round tie (March 3, kick-off 7.45pm).