1874 Northwich 1 Leek CSOB 0
IT wasn’t pretty, ugly even, but by the final whistle 1874 Northwich didn’t much care.
They needed a win and got one, if only just.
A goal from Michael Brandon goal proved to be decisive, not for the first time this season, to keep the North West Counties League debutants in a race for promotion.
It was the perfect fillip ahead of facing Formby this weekend.
A cliché it may be, but Ian Street’s men make the trip there knowing destiny is back in their hands.
Win their remaining three matches, and they will finish in the table’s top two.
Brandon improved his tally for the term to 33 goals on 71 minutes, smuggling the ball over the line after Daley Woods had driven a low cross in his direction.
When Northwich teeter, the striker seems always to steady them.
While untroubled in defence, the hosts too often lacked composure when attempting to subdue spirited opponents playing their fourth game in the past five days.
Knowing what was at stake it is understandable that decisions were made in a hurry, particularly in the final third.
That is not to say the hosts were without chances.
They were resisted by a goalkeeper in form too, Bradley Moorhead making the first in a series of saves when he reacted instinctively to divert Woods’ free kick after it had squirmed through a crowd.
Lee Jones’ drive flashed wide of an upright a minute later.
1874 went closest when Matty Ward wriggled away from a defender before slamming a shot against the inside of a post on 39 minutes.
But these were episodes, not proof of concerted pressure.
Moorhead dived low to thwart David Short to make sure his side reached half time unscathed.
The hosts emerged early for the second period, but a surge from the start was not forthcoming.
Ward did tee up Brandon but the forward’s drive, while powerful, was straight at Leek’s custodian.
The duo repeated the trick on 67 minutes, prompting an identical outcome.
Not to be denied, Brandon nudged Woods’ assist over the line shortly afterwards after the winger scampered into space down the right.
It was a rare moment of quality.
Leek, tired or not, did not wilt.
1874 were less restless, though they might have been more comfortable had Woods not blazed high when a partially-cleared corner presented a shooting chance.
Ward fired too close to Moorhead after a slalom into space, while substitute Sakeel Abdullah was denied by a defender’s perfectly-timed tackle after taking an age to shoot at the end of a trademark dribble.
Northwich will have to perform better, much better, against Formby on Saturday.
That they enter the final seven days of their first season still in with a chance of promotion, favourites or otherwise, is sure to act as a spur.
1874 (4-4-2) Conkie (GK), Mitchell, Farnworth, Danny Thomas, Stewart, Woods, Jones, Ward, Wellstead, Short (Abdullah 79), Brandon Subs not used Tagoe, Woolley, Lunn Goal Brandon 71
Leek CSOB (4-4-2) Moorhead (GK), McLaren, Lewis, Phil Thomas, Bowyer, Bowery, Mellor, Greene (Biddulph 46), Lowe, Goldstraw (Fox 74), Smith Subs not used Morgan, Snape Booked Lowe (foul)
Referee Bob Richards