Joint boss Anthony Johnson accepts Radcliffe endured a bad day at the office with their 5-2 home defeat to Ashton United last Saturday but is backing his ‘incredible’ players to bounce back and win the NPL Premier Division title in style.

A bumper home crowd at Stainton Park turned up on Non-League Day and less than 30 seconds in, Jordan Hulme’s near-post header provided the perfect start as the league leaders took a 1-0 lead.

Parity was restored in the ninth minute as Alex Byrne deflected Nathan Lowe’s driven effort from the edge of the area into the bottom corner, despite shouts for offside.

Just after the half-hour mark, Radcliffe had huge shouts for a penalty waved away as Hulme powered into the area, beating two Ashton defenders before being pushed to the ground in a shooting position.

After a sustained period of Radcliffe pressure, Ashton United took the lead in the 36th minute against the run of play. A mistake at the back by Lois Maynard allowed James Hardy to square the ball across the box for Kielan Adams, who slotted past Mateusz Hewelt.

Five minutes into the second half, Ashton extended their lead when Warren Clarke laid it off perfectly for Lowe who powered a shot across Hewelt and into the side netting from just inside the box.

Sean Newton provided Radcliffe with a way back into the game when he brought down Anthony Dudley inside the box with 15 minutes left. Regular taker Josh Hancock took the responsibility and made no mistake, as he picked out the bottom left corner to reduce the deficit.

As the minutes ticked by, the hosts forced Cooper into more acrobatic saves with a duo of efforts from Scott Duxbury and Hancock as Radcliffe pushed for a leveller.

Three minutes from time however, Ashton restored their two-goal advantage to end the game as a contest, before adding a killer fifth which added salt to the Boro wounds.

Hardy completed a counter-attack as he rounded Hewelt and put the ball into the back of the net in the final few moments of the 90.

Ashton then dispatched a fifth in the 94th minute through Byrne, who converted from the penalty spot after Dudley brought Lowe to the ground deep into added time.

Radcliffe sit 14 points clear at the top ahead of Monday’s trip to Bradford (Park Avenue).

Johnson told the club’s YouTube channel: “The best side won - let’s get it right. They were set up in a certain way to stop us - and it worked for them. They are a side in good form chasing the play-offs themselves so you have to give them and their coaching staff credit

“It was a really bad day at the office in terms of the scoreline

“But their equaliser was offside and should have been ruled out, then the officials miss what should have been a penalty for us. Then it’s a 2-0 game for us.

“When they then got a second it allowed them to gain momentum and they managed our adversity better than we did.

“I am gutted because numbers turned out to see a team they are hoping will end up being the champions and that will happen in the coming weeks. But days like this happen in football.

“These lads have been incredible this season. They have earned the right to have an off-day every now and then.”