BEFORE the season started, warnings were whispered that 1874 Northwich should not rely on Mike Brandon to again carry the burden of scoring their goals.
On this evidence – a strike in each half with a succession of chances missed in between – the forward, who turned 34 last month, does not seem to mind one bit.
The hosts won more easily than the 3-1 scoreline suggests.
That they were wasteful irked manager Ian Street, as did gifting brittle Barnoldswick a glimmer of hope when conceding sloppily, but his side still has maximum points from the season’s first seven days.
While it is too early to make definitive judgements about 1874 –their victories have been against teams who have lost every game – the initial signs are promising.
That said, they will meet few opponents as obliging as Barlick in defence.
Brandon, along with strike partner Matthew Beadle, bullied their markers mercilessly throughout.
Matty Ward and Brandon, teed up by Beadle, failed to hit the target inside the first five minutes before Liam Hoyle swept against an upright at the other end.
It proved only temporarily to stem the one-way traffic.
Paul Connor, after switching from right to left, cut inside two would-be tacklers before curving an attempt onto the crossbar.
Ward’s low drive hit the inside of a post from the hosts’ next attack, then Brandon headed high from another Beadle assist.
He converted his most difficult opening though, arcing a free kick over the visitors’ wall and out of goalkeeper Edward Hall’s reach on 36 minutes.
The contest appeared over when Beadle, twice on target at AFC Blackpool on the campaign’s opening day, slammed in smartly two minutes after half time.
Safe, perhaps too much so, that they had the points secure, Northwich relented.
That dip in intensity proved costly when Martin Broderick’s set piece, seemingly harmless, squirmed through Matt Conkie’s fingers at his near post.
At 2-1, the home team’s lead suddenly felt slender.
Connor deserved better than to see a strike smack the post after Brandon had touched the ball deftly in his direction, then the front man headed too close to Hall with the goal at his mercy.
When he received a pass from Rick Bailey on 62 minutes, Brandon placed the ball beyond a Barlick back-marker to restore 1874’s two-goal advantage.
That gap did not widen, though Ward skidded wide a header when well-stationed to score before substitute Michael Hodson deflected Dave Short’s effort against the bar after Bailey had again drifted into space down the left.
Josh Crofts and Andy Hurst both made their first appearances for Northwich in the closing stages, the latter looking sharp after shaking off a hamstring injury that disrupted his pre-season.
1874 (4-4-2) Conkie (GK), Mitchell, Farnworth, Aston, Duckworth, Connor (Crofts 73), Thomas, Ward, Bailey, Brandon (Hurst 81), Beadle (Short 65) Subs not used Bowyer, Abdullah Goals Brandon 36, 62 Beadle 47
Barlick (4-4-2) Hall (GK), Walker, Georgy, McEneaney, Ellerton, Thompson (Ridehalgh 46), Broderick (Hodson 83), Simpson, Hoyle (Pollard 69), Hollindrake, Melia Subs not used Gill, Airdrie Goal Broderick 54
Referee James Madine