Norton United 5 Silsden 3
The Cobbydalers travelled to the Potteries with spirits high, following their battling performance a week earlier against North West Counties League Premier Division promotion-chasing Bootle.
But any hopes of gaining their first victory since October 20 – and opening a gap between themselves and their opponents – were scuppered within the first three minutes as they went 2-0 down.
Skipper James Nettleton and leading scorer Mike Garrod were both in the starting line-up as Silsden boss Chris Reape kept the partnership of Scott Hanson and Danny Husband at the heart of the defence, pushing Nettleton into midfield.
But a nightmare start saw Danny Bryan lose possession, trying to dribble out of the Silsden penalty area.
Nettleton tripped Delroy Fox and Thomas Fogg put United ahead after only two minutes from the penalty spot.
A minute later Norton doubled their lead, Dan Brown latching on to a long ball before sliding the ball past the helpless Edward Hall.
The greasy surface made turning tricky and neither Husband nor Hanson looked comfortable when runners burst from midfield.
It was 15 minutes before the Cobbydalers exerted any pressure on United’s defence. Garrod saw a deft chip saved by Richard Brandon and Bryan blasted over.
Gradually, Silsden began to push the ball about, but far too many passes went astray.
Silsden came close to pulling one back before half-time but instead found themselves 3-0 down at the break.
Nettleton stole the ball in his opponents’ half and fed Bryan. For once, the cross penetrated the defence but Garrod totally mistimed his effort.
United broke down the right, Joe Donaldson crossed and Darren Chadwick headed home.
At half-time, the injured Husband was replaced by James Dunn, who moved into midfield with Nettleton returning to his customary role in the back four.
Initially, there was no change in the pattern of the play with Hall, at full stretch, tipping Beaumont’s header over the bar.
Dunn then exerted his influence, first tracking back and then sending the ball wide down the right. Garrod slipped past Dawson before crossing into the box for Kevin Ryan to head home in the 61st minute and give Silsden a glimmer of hope.
Two minutes later, McNulty’s cross was only partially cleared and Dunn curled it home from the edge of the box.
With more than 25 minutes left, it was game on but Silsden’s hopes nosedived when Chad- wick headed home unchallenged from a corner.
Chris Wademan came on for McNulty but immediately afterwards Jake McEneaney was injured. Unfortunately a third substitute was unavailable and Silsden were forced to play out the final quarter a man down.
A flowing move involving Hanson and Garrod ended with Lee having a shot deflected for a corner.
Ryan missed the header but Garrod had an effort blocked on the line.
Hopes were rekindled on 77 minutes when Lee hit a left-foot half-volley home to make it 4-3.
But with only three at the back, the Cobbydalers were stretched. Fox missed the easiest chance of the half and Chadwick shot wide.
Finally Norton sealed it from the penalty spot in what was a bizzarre two minutes.
Hall brought down Brown in the penalty area. The ball fell to Chadwick who drove it home but the referee had already blown for a penalty as it crossed the line.
Hall took his place on the line as Chadwick placed the ball on the spot but the intervention of the assistant-referee saw the keeper dismissed, presumably for being the last defender.
Chadwick hit the spot-kick home past Scott Hanson to seal the victory.
The Cobbydalers travel to top-of-the-table Maine Road on Saturday before entertaining Colne on Boxing Day.