NORTHWICH need to hold their nerve after an on-field fall.
At no point this season has the distance to top spot been as wide, nor have they previously failed to win a league encounter in three successive attempts.
The importance of Tuesday’s trip to Hednesford transcends that of matches previous.
“We’ll bounce straight back like we have after every other defeat,” vowed stand-in boss Steve Abbott afterwards.
A six-points haul from the past five Premier Division matches hints at a malaise that started even before Andy Preece’s unexpected exit earlier this month.
It should not be allowed to linger much longer.
For the first time since finding out they may be without a home for the seasons’ remainder, Vics legs looked leaden.
So slow was their start against in-form Marine that the only surprise was they kept their sheet clean for 12 minutes before Michael Ordish’s drive crept in off an upright.
As if humbling Hednesford in midweek had not been a boost enough, Kevin Lynch’s men arrived in town wearing an official ‘best travellers’ tag.
Scorned too by a cup thrashing on this pitch, they were in no mood to lose.
Even so they wobbled when Michael Roddy steered in an emphatic equaliser on the quarter hour, ending an attack he had started with a scorching shot after Wayne Riley had teed him up.
When goalkeeper Ryan McMahon punched Tom Field’s flashed shot skywards from Vics’ next attack, it appeared they would assume control.
Jordan Johnson should have done better when well-placed, firing too close to Marine’s custodian, then the visitors’ net-minder helped Ian Kearney’s looping header to safety.
That fragile momentum soon dissipated though.
Marine restored their lead four minutes before the break, top scorer Neil Harvey scoring at the second attempt after custodian Ben Hinchliffe had deflected his initial effort onto the crossbar.
The Barbados international had shown Kearney a clean pair of heels in the build-up.
The Mariners, conscious of their threat on the counter, did not mind retreating in the second half despite such a move inviting pressure.
Northwich dominated possession too, but McMahon was not made to work hard enough.
Dominic Collins almost helped Kearney’s flick-on over the line, then Vics’ captain headed straight at Marine’s number one from Lewis Short’s centre.
At the other end, substitute Darren Byers did the same from Ordish’s flag kick.
In between, Harvey fell feebly in the penalty area under pressure from John Disney, but referee Ian Smedley fit to punish neither.
When Kearney headed wide from replacement Nathan Woolfe’s cross and Chris Budrys somehow failed to hit the target after throwing himself at another Woolfe assist, Vics’ luck appeared to be out.
Abbott mused: “We had an off day, no question.
“They seemed to want to win more than we did, and showed more desire.”
Honest, and true.
Vics can climb back to second spot with victory in midweek, so don’t lack an incentive to avoid Abbott having to repeat that assessment.
Vics’ Star Man John Disney. The contribution he makes to attack from full back is becoming an increasingly noticeable part of Vics’ play.
Happy to drive forward and has the ability to deliver a telling cross.
Word too for Chris Budrys, who led the line expertly but without at times the support required to make his approach play look as good as it was.
Vics (4-2-3-1) Hinchliffe (GK), Disney, Collins, Kearney, Short, Field (Armstrong 70), Roddy, Wade (Woolfe 63), Riley (Ennis 81), Johnson, Budrys
Subs not used Smyth, Clarke
Goal Roddy 15
Booked Roddy, Kearney (both fouls)
Marine (4-4-2) McMahon (GK), Duff, Shinks (Byers 58), Shaw, Louis Barnes, Lundon, Paul Brown, Goulding, Ordish (Dawson 86), Rey, Harvey
Subs not used Latham, Farrell, Brazier
Goal Ordish 12, Harvey 41
Booked Ordish (foul)
Referee Ian Smedley (Derby)