A Tom Cross penalty save helped Racing Club grind out an ugly victory at home to Littleton on Saturday, writes Paul Okey.
The two teams came into the game locked together on 46 points but while there was nothing between them in terms of points - and indeed goal difference - there was a huge gulf in quality in the opening stages as Racers took control.
Inside the opening five minutes, the lively Trea Bertie had a shot blocked, while Sean Kavanagh was forced wide by the advance of keeper Brendon Bunn, eventually forcing a corner.
For all Racers’ possession, chances were at a premium and it took them until the 21st minute to make their dominance pay.
Josh Cole flicked on Alex Price’s corner and Joe Smith produced a neat first touch before firing into the roof of the net from eight yards.
With a one-goal lead to protect, the hosts’ passing became disjointed and it needed a fine covering tackle from Lewis Hudson to deny Steve Roach after Littleton worked a three-on-two.
Luke Cole had two late chances but failed to get enough purchase on either effort, while the prolific Dan Carter was allowed time and space on the edge of the Racers box as the defence backed off. However, he was unable to add to his 32-goal haul, ballooning his shot over the bar.
With Racers looking leggy, boss Scott Easterlow made a double switch just short of the hour, introducing Rich Powell and Marc Passey in place of Josh Cole and Sean Kavanagh.
However, just two minutes later the home side were facing being pegged back when Smith’s flailing leg brought down Dale Edwards in the box.
Edwards picked himself up to take the penalty but the strike lacked conviction and Cross threw himself to his left to keep the ball out.
A theatrical dive from Simon Fitter earned Mike Ellis a booking as the game threatened to spill over and amid the niggly fouls and challenges, Joe Adams shot wide for Littleton and was then unable to hit the target with a header after an aerial mismatch with Jack Taylor.
With Littleton going to three at the back, a fortunate ricochet off Powell set up a shooting chance for Bertie but he got his connection all wrong.
A foul on Dave Edwards presented Fitter with a free-kick in a promising position but his curled effort failed to trouble Cross.
The hosts had two late chances to make the points safe, with substitute Luke Church denied by the legs of Bunn after an astute ball from Passey and Luke Cole firing well over after a neat lay-off from Bertie.
Carter then flicked a header well off target, much to his disgust, as Racers dug in to see the game out.