A much-changed Radcliffe side came up short in a narrow 3-2 defeat at Gainsborough Trinity - despite Lewis Rawsthorn’s late equaliser which looked to have earned a share of the spoils, writes Kieran Wilson.

The NPL Premier League champions made seven changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Basford United at the Neuven Stadium last Saturday, as Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson handed league debuts to striker Rawsthorn and defender Alex Francis - along with keeper Brad Sullivan who later entered the fray off the bench.

Radcliffe broke the deadlock in the seventh minute when Anthony Dudley’s in-swinging another cross was flicked on by Sean Tse for Jordan Hulme to head home his 25th goal of the campaign.

Trinity started the second half well and saw their efforts rewarded with an equaliser, just three minutes after the restart. Brad Rose managed to tip away Declan Howe’s initial low shot but Dayle Southwell tapped home the rebound.

Radcliffe had a chance to retake the lead 10 minutes into the second half with a free kick that was won by Oyibo, and Hulme’s delivery to the back post but Jake Thompson couldn’t keep his effort on target.

Moments after Ewan Bange and George Mercer were brought onto the field, the hosts took the lead with 20 minutes left. Howe’s delivery from the right flank was deflected by Harry Brockbank, and Joe Stacey was first to react by pouncing on the loose ball and thumping into the net from 10 yards out.

Radcliffe burst forwards in the 83rd minute in search of a parity restorer as Jamie Morgan went one-on-one with Josh Render, the substitute ‘keeper did well to deny the defender his 11th goal of the campaign with a smart stop.

On his league debut for Radcliffe, Rawsthorn levelled matters in the 85th minute. Thompson’s cross from the right wing found the feet of the former Atherton LR striker, who swivelled on the spot before firing into the roof of the net.

However, Gainsborough weren’t finished and managed to grab a winner on the cusp of added-on time.

George Hornshaw’s delivery picked out Southwell in space, who got his second of the game with a tidy finish into the bottom left corner.

Radcliffe couldn’t make the most of the four additional minutes as they look for an equaliser.

But while the season ended in defeat it proved to be a memorable and historic campaign as they reached National League North for the first time in the club’s history.

Radcliffe XI: Rose (Sullivan 81’), Oyibo, Thompson, Smith (Mercer 66’), Brockbank, Francis, Dudley, Tse, Hulme (Bange 59’), Rawsthorn, Morgan

Unused subs: Duxbury, Jackson

Gainsborough XI: Wharton (Render 56’), Hornshaw, Jackson, Conway, Douglas, Wallace (Collins 86’), Stacey, Johnson, Southwell, Howe, Preston

Unused subs: Moore-Billam, Simpson, Parkinson