The only game to go to form was at St Andrew’s where Northerners came away with a 5-2 win against bottom-of-the-table Rangers, but nobody would have predicted St Martin’s going down 1-0 in Alderney and leaders Rovers being held by next-to-bottom Vale Rec 1-1.
Rovers arrived at a very wet and thoroughly miserable Corbet Field for a Saturday evening tea-time kickoff, their focus not so much on the wind and rain, but very much on capitalising on St Martin’s shock slip.
The carrot was a five-point lead at the top of the table but with strikers Fin Whitmore (shin), Will Fazakerley, Jack Batiste (hamstring) and Louis Graham (heavy cold) missing for the blues, they struggled throughout.
Vale welcomed back Damien Larkin and Glenn Le Tissier who would have seen the Rovers line-up and immediately fancied their chances of another win.
Frank Tobin was pushed into midfield for the visitors and generally had a strong game, and with just five minutes on the clock the outstanding Fergus Moriarty was flying through the darkness to superbly tip Carlos Canha’s fierce shot over.
Rec were soon losing forward Elliot Tart to what looked a potentially serious injury but his replacement, player-coach Craig Tyrrell, was soon poking home from close range.
Canha then fired into the side netting as Rovers pushed for a swift response which was not long in coming, Sam Hall’s near post corner being flicked home by Dale Webb’s forehead.
Webb almost made it two with an audacious effort from distance that very nearly caught out Moriarty, but with Tobin coming into the game strongly at the base of the blues midfield Rovers were briefly dominant playing against the driving rain.
But it was far from one way traffic and during one notably heavy shower Jack Trott powered a header inches too high from a Jacques Wilcox corner and likewise, Sam Le Huray, with a long range effort.
On the verge of half time Tobin powered forward and his cross shot so nearly beat Moriarty, while in time added on Adam Bullock spilled Le Huray’s freekick and it required some desperate defending to deny Rec a second.
Into the second period and it didn’t get any easier for the leaders, Trott clipping a cross onto the top of Bullock’s crossbar.
Vale continued to give as good as they got, but they were fortunate when Tobin’s shot deflected onto the post.
Webb had the ball in the net but the assistant’s flag was up even before the ball arrived with him and Moriarty came to the rescue as he parried away Ben Le Tocq’s 30 yarder.
Into the last 10 minutes Rec thought they had scored but, again, the flag was up and the celebration quashed.
Tobin smashed a superb 35-yarder that threatened to bulge the top of the net, but Moriarty flew to his left to save impressively and a minute later he made an even better save, flicking over Canha’s 25 yarder, a save which confirmed a well-deserved point.