EVESHAM United are facing an increasingly uphill battle to qualify for the Southern League Division One South & West play-offs after being held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by visitors Shortwood United on Saturday.
The Robins have lost just two of their last 16 league games but their inability to string together a run of victories looks like it is going to deprive them of the chance to replicate last season’s achievement and secure a top five finish.
Once again conditions did not allow for free-flowing football and a gale force wind made it another poor spectacle for the Jubilee Stadium faithful.
United welcomed back Ashley Williams and Lance Smith following unavailability and suspension respectively, but both had to make do with places on the substitutes bench.
There was good news for the Red & Whites as popular goalkeeper Kevin Sawyer took his place between the stcks after rejecting an approach to join league rivals North Leigh.
Shortwood, who went into the game defending a nine-match unbeaten run, were under the cosh straight from the kick-off and were indebted to goalkeeper Tom King who made a fine full-length save to push behind Adam Mann’s goalbound free kick inside the opening two minutes.
With the wind behind them, Evesham continued to look the more likely to score, but Carl Brown blew a couple of good opportunities for himself after finding space in the visitors’ box.
Shortly before the interval King was in action when he saved low down from Mann and then safely gathered another free kick from the same player.
Despite having the elements in their favour, an expected Shortwood onslaught in the second half never really materialised.
Like the hosts, they were guilty of over-hitting passes and constantly giving the ball away and their best chance fell to the lively Marley Thomas, but Sawyer showed his class by making an important save as the Shortwood winger bore down on goal.
At the other end a good run by Linden Dovey ended with Niall Halford making a last-ditch block to deny Smith, who was about to pull the trigger in the six-yard box.
After this Shortwood substitute Matt Bennett curled a free kick wide and Sawyer held Jake Lee’s header, but that was as good as it got as a draw always looked on the cards long before Mr Hardisty’s full time whistle.
The ninth placed Robins now face two stern tests on Saturday and Tuesday when they visit title-chasing Taunton Town and Swindon Supermarine respectively.
Maximum points would appear to be the order of the day as they sit nine points outside the play-offs with 13 matches remaining having played more games than some of the top five.