Skegness Town 3
Market Rasen Town 4
Lilywhites supporters were left scratching their heads after seeing their side squander a three-goal lead to mid-table Market Rasen Town.
Their nine-game winning start to the season was brought to an abrupt end by bogie side Rasen on the 3G pitch at Wainfleet Road.
Was it complacency? The seasiders were sitting pretty at the top of the table with eight league wins from eight.
And in truth they were 3-0 up after 40 minutes against Rasen without having to move out of second gear.
But it felt more like lack of leadership on the pitch, with skipper and vice-captain Ben Davison and Miles Chamberlain both unavailable for the starting line-up.
The home side may have coasted to a three-goal cushion, but Rasen were always a threat when invited into the game. And having started the match at such a low tempo, Skegness found it difficult to step things up after the interval.
Rasen on the other hand, having been gifted a lifeline with Rafael Garda Figueras Negrillo’s goal just before the break, were full of beans from the start of the second half.
Indeed, within 10 minutes of the re-start they had turned the game on its head, taking full advantage of a static and lethargic home defence.
The only saving grace for the Lilywhites was the fact that second placed Horncastle also lost, so the seasiders retained their top spot in the table.
Lilywhites boss Nick Chapman, although disappointed with the result, remained philosophical.
“If you had said we would be top of the league after nine games, having scored nearly 50 goals, I think we’d have settled for that,” he said.
“What we tend to forget is that this is a young side, with most of the players under 22.
“Without the likes of Ben (Davison) and Miles (Chamberlain) we lacked a bit of leadership out there.
“We need to just dust ourselves down and put things right at Wyberton on Saturday,” he continued.
It’s fair to say the 3-0 lead they raced to did flatter the home side.
Will Britton fired them in front after seven minutes and Corey Cunliffe nodded home a loose ball in the 14th minute to double the lead.
At the other end Liam Bee stung the hands of home keeper Travis Portas with the first of many warning shots fired by the visitors.
But it was the Rasen keeper, William Bradford, who was the busier of the two custodians.
He pulled off a couple of great saves to deny Britton and Luke Rayner-Mistry.
McCauley Parker was inches away from increasing their lead, when he dragged his shot just wide of the target and Bradford thwarted Courtney Warren and Cunliffe as the seasiders piled on the pressure.
Warren finally gave the Lilywhites some extra insurance when his 15-yard shot hit a defender and looped over the helpless Bradford in the 42nd minute.
Rasen’s response was immediate and Garda Figueras Negrillo was quickest to react to a loose ball in the dying embers of the half.
He blasted home from close range to reduce arrears.
The goal gave Rasen some hope of a fightback, but no-one predicted the turnaround that was to follow.
Within a minute of the restart Kyle Paul had reduced arrears further.
Instead of increasing the tempo, Skegness retreated and invited the visitors to press on in search of an equaliser.
They didn’t disappoint: it was 3-3 after five minutes of the second half.
That man Paul grabbed his second of the day and then stunned the home supporters by completing his hat-trick three minutes later, taking advantage of some poor defending.
The place was in shock, but the Lilywhites had plenty of time to get back on level terms, especially as they had the wind on their backs.
To their credit, Rasen dug in and frustrated the leaders in a similar way to the corresponding fixture last season, when they finished 3-2 winners at Burgh Road.
Paul continued to be a thorn in their side on the break and rattled a post with another effort midway through the half.
At the other end Luke Rayner-Mistry and Courtney Warren tried to get the young side going, but found the Rasen backs in defiant mood.
The closest Skegness came to an equaliser was a rasping 20-yard drive from Britton that Bradford tipped onto the cross bar.
Urged on by skipper Joe Osbourne, Rasen hung on to spoil the seasiders’ 100 per cent start to the season and add to the congestion at the top of the table.
On Saturday Skegness travel to Wyberton for the second round of the Challenge Cup (KO 2.30pm).