By Jamie Durent
Sun 22nd Apr 2012 : 9:14
A late leveller from Jack Palmer at Brandon ensured Team Northumbria's title hopes remain in their own hands as they scraped to a 2-2 draw.
Palmer was one of very few to come out of the game with any credit and TN boss Paul Johnson fired out a stark warning to his below-par side.
"There's below average and then there's where we were this weekend," he said. "I'm still very angry.
"There's been far too much talk of cup finals rather than focusing on the league title which is the main priority.
"The attitude was completely wrong and I'll say now that no one is guaranteed their place in the next week or so."
TN had early chances to take the lead as Graeme Cairns fired wide and John Sherlock followed Tom Davies in shooting over the Brandon crossbar.
Mark Fenwick came even closer minutes later as he cut in off the left flank and saw his shot rebound off the far post, evading every TN foot as it was cleared.
Palmer skewed an effort wide before the visitors finally found the back of the net - Peter Watling collecting a Sherlock cross and sending the ball back across goal for an on-rushing Cairns to tap home.
Watling was laid in by Sherlock just before half time and his shot flashed narrowly wide but TN were arguably too wasteful of their first half possession.
"Even playing badly we create chances and there's so many we should have finished," Johnson said.
"We played at a pathetically slow pace and some people were playing in cruise control.
"They pressed us well and had more desire to win the game."
Brandon hit back mid-way through the second half as leading scorer Mark Brischuk crossed for an unmarked Ryan Readman to head past Andy Jennison.
Johnson's side had Jennison to thank for keeping them level as, moments after levelling, Brandon's Michael Nichol drilled a goal-bound effort from the edge of the area that the TN keeper reacted to superbly to tip over the bar.
Fenwick had a double attempt blocked down the opposite end and Christian Graham hit the crossbar before the hosts appeared to have dealt TN's title charge a huge blow.
Liam Clough's pass to Mark Bertram was too short and Brischuk found captain Mark Costello to cross for Readman to again head in unmarked in almost identical circumstances to his first goal.
"It's almost as if we decided not to defend for the first goal and then give the ball away almost criminally for the second," said Johnson.
"Both goals were nearly identical and there were unmarked men for both of them.
"When you play that poorly against teams at the bottom of the league you almost become an embarrassment to the club."
When substitute Dan Riley saw his point-blank effort blocked by Brandon goalkeeper Ryan Hindehaugh the feeling was that TN had blown their big chance.
But Clough's long ball hoisted forward was nodded across goal by Davies and spilled by Hindehaugh with Palmer on hand to scramble home a very late equaliser.
"I don't care what anyone says but the league is the priority and our strongest side will play against Whitehaven," said a frustrated Johnson.
"We could have gone into next week playing our first team in the cups but as it is we need to secure the league title.
"It's come to the point of the season where we are playing for everything but it's almost as if the team are playing themselves out of it.
"Too often this season against lower teams we've turned up and thought games are in the bag.
"We didn't deserve to get anything out of the game today."
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