THE DARK clouds currently circling Giant Axe got that little bit thicker on Saturday as Lancaster City were dumped out of the FA Trophy by fellow strugglers Wakefield.
With the current furore over the sacking of manager Tony Hesketh a win and a much-needed cash injection from the FA would have brightened the mood somewhat.
However an injury-time winner from visiting striker Dave Boardman heaped further misery on interim manager Mick Hoyle.
He said, “When the chips are down you need a bit of luck and it has deserted us today, we had the chances to win this game hitting the bar three times but it wasn’t to be.”
Indeed the Dolly Blues should have won this game at a canter; the Yorkshire side were poor and City had the chances to settle things.
Debutantes Matty Dodwell and the brilliant Rodrigo Branco joined Dave Swarbrick in a three-pronged attack and they came up against a defence determined to keep a high line, suicidal against that trio’s pace.
However the service wasn’t really there and when Swarbrick did burst through on a solitary occasion his lob went agonisingly high.
In a 4-3-3 formation they were still over-run in central midfield as the brutish Micah Bleau gave Rob Wilson and Max Rothwell a tough afternoon’s work while Neil Wainwright was often caught too deep.
Full-backs Dan Parkinson and Ryan Elderton were cruelly exposed at times as Dodwell and Swarbrick struggled to provide cover.
Danny McDonald in the City net had an inadvertent hand in the fourth minute opener. He let a back-pass slide under his foot and out for a corner that City could not clear leaving Sequele Clarke to cross for Bleau to flick on and Lee Turner to score.
Branco, the Brazilian on loan from Fleetwood Town, was a breath of fresh air as he combined silky skills with a determination to keep battling despite some heavy treatment from the Wakefield defence.
He had a hand in the Dolly Blue equaliser as his fancy footwork held the ball up on the left side of the box before laying off for Elderton to provide a dangerous cross that Dodwell put in off his shoulder.
The second half was all Dolly Blue and the chances came thick and fast.
First an Elderton free-kick from range had visiting ‘keeper Sam Dobbs back-pedalling, it hit the bar and came off the back off his head and out for a corner.
With the yellow cards beginning to flow City also earned and wasted three well-positioned free-kicks as first Elderton then Swarbrick couldn’t make them tell.
The bar was struck again as Danny Gregson battled and rose well from a Wilson corner to slam a header against the woodwork from six yards.
Unfortunately it was the referee and his yellow cards that would have a hand in the late, late winner for the visitors.
After a coming together in the centre circle between Wilson and Bleau he awarded a free-kick and harshly booked the City man who moments later was slightly late into another tackle and again saw yellow, resulting in red.
A pair of his teammates not in the squad and waiting in the tunnel seemed to find his red amusing and a fan remarked that they would not be laughing if they scored from this.
What a death knoll and telling comment that was as a floated free-kick straight down the middle was not cleared and in the resulting melee Boardman bundled the ball over the line to earn his beleaguered side the win and the £2,300 prize money.
There is very little to laugh about at Giant Axe at the moment and they simply must get their act together for the visits of Bamber Bridge and Garforth Town on Tuesday and Saturday respectively.
Lancaster City: McDonald 5, Parkinson 6, Elderton 6, Marshall 6, Gregson 6, Wainwright 5 (Hubbold 83), Swarbrick 6, Wilson 5, Branco 7, Rothwell 5, Dodwell 7 (Kilifin 70). Subs not used: Hudson, Wheeler, McKenna.
Wakefield: Dobbs, Blakey, Thornton, Bleau, Fisher, Grant, Turner, Pickering, Boardman, Grant, Clarke (Jarrett 77). Subs not used: Benjamin, Trueman, Hardaker, Fogarty.
Referee: James Mainwaring
Star man: Rodrigo Branco – Not for the flashes of skill but for his admirable composure under some heavy ‘tackles’