By Phil Dearnley

SELBY Town crashed to their first defeat in nine games, going down 4-0 at home to promotion rivals Harrogate Railway Athletic.

The Robins were on a seven-game winning run going into the new year before drawing 2-2 at Retford on Monday.

Saturday's comprehensive defeat to a well-organised Harrogate at Richard Street leaves them fifth in Northern Counties East League division one and now looking at a gap of eight points to the fourth-placed Rail.

Manager Christian Fox made a few changes to his regular line-up. Luke Balderson was rewarded with a start after his fine goal at Retford, and Ryan Cooper came into midfield at the expense of Chris Murray, who dropped to the bench.

Harry Clapham was forced to miss the game after suffering mild concussion last Monday.

Selby looked bright early on with Balderson having a run at the defence and Liam Flanagan cutting inside to deliver a cross.

But it was not long before things turned ominous as Harrogate seized control. Town successfully defended a free kick, but were clearly struggling with the Rail’s pressing and their controlled passing.

Harrogate soon took the lead. A good passing move took them past the Town midfield, the ball was played out wide on Selby’s left, and a hard, low cross was easily turned past Jody Barford by the centrally-positioned Jacob Robertson.

Selby tried to respond. Harry Sheppard had a good run, which the visitors' defence managed to smother, and Flanagan's attempt was just wide.

It wasn’t long before Harrogate resumed the ascendancy. A free kick thundered against the Robins' bar, and Barford was forced into a save to prevent the rebound being turned home.

The Rail were in control and created their second goal when they worked the ball to Selby’s left and delivered a dangerous ball into the box, where it was turned past the stranded Barford.

As Town had a spell of pressure just before half-time, the best they could muster was a Flanagan shot, which was easily claimed by the Harrogate keeper.

It was soon evident after the restart that the second half was going to be as much of a struggle as the first and the Rail added a third when Dan McDaid converted from a cross following a good passing move.

What had already been a bad day for the Robins suddenly became a whole lot worse when a clearly frustrated Ryan Gothard mistimed one tackle too many and earned himself a second booking.

Selby had a chance to get back into the game when they were awarded a spot kick but the usually reliable Flanagan missed the target by a considerable distance.

And the game was all over with 25 minutes left when Joe Crosby finished beyond Barford following some pinball in the box.