NORTHWICH averted another Dabbers disaster to strengthen their hold on second spot in the table.

Wayne Riley swerved a stunning winner past Jon Brain to rescue his team, on course for a third successive defeat against their Cheshire rivals when Simon Everall scored at the start of the second half.

It was only then that Vics woke from their slumber.

So soporific were they before the break that not even their most ardent of supporters could have envisaged a recovery from a losing position.

But this version of Vics is made of stern stuff.

Irked by an opponent that appeared only a shadow of the side that knocked them out of the FA Cup or raced into a three-goals lead in their previous meeting in November, they reacted in the right way.

Captain Ian Kearney angled a cute finish into the far corner after Nantwich failed to clear a set piece on 57 minutes.

Riley’s moment soon afterwards was magic.

He arced a perfectly-placed effort into the net after David Fitzpatrick and Tom Field had worked the ball towards him from the left touchline.

Nantwich, who attacked only sporadically from the outset, lacked the guile to pinch back a point.

Jimmy Quinn’s men may have expected all three when Everall, who cut inside John Disney before firing a low shot past Ben Hinchliffe, put them ahead 30 seconds after half time.

They had gone closest in a tepid opening period too, Rod McDonald’s improvised hook shot clipping the crossbar when Sean Cooke’s cross reached him on the quarter hour.

Northwich, allowed more of the ball than they knew what to do with at times, could not find their usual fluidity.

Lewis Short, recalled for a first start in more than a month, blazed wildly off target before later crossing for Riley to head wide when under pressure.

Field fired past a post from Vics’ best move, one that he started by switching play to Fitzpatrick who in turn had fed Riley.

The best chance fell to Tony Evans, but he prodded tamely over with the goal at his mercy after Steve Abbott’s cushioned header acted as an invite to shoot.

Short of a spark, Vics were indebted to Everall for giving them a reason go get going.

Fitzpatrick fizzed a shot that Brain beat to safety after Evans’ blocked effort fell into his path, then Kearney turned and shot in the same movement to restore parity.

Riley’s goal, his 17th of the campaign, was a beacon of brilliance.

It was significant too, for Northwich moved clear in second spot after a third win from their past four Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division matches.

Beating the league’s worst team, Burscough, on Tuesday would cut the distance to Chester – albeit temporarily – to five points at the standings’ summit.

Vics’ Star Man David Fitzpatrick. His contribution on the left touchline led to Wayne Riley’s winner.

Showed adaptability to move forward from full back to play in midfield after half time, twice forcing Nantwich goalkeeper Jon Brain so save smartly to deny him a goal.

A word to for Ian Kearney, who continued to drive his term forward on an afternoon when those around him were far from their fluid best.

Northwich (4-2-3-1) Hinchliffe (GK), Disney, Kearney, Collins, Fitzpatrick, Field (Roddy 72), Abbott (Armstrong 79), Wade, Riley, Short, Evans (Budrys 72)
Subs not used Smyth, Johnson
Goal Kearney 57, Riley 62

Nantwich (4-4-2) Brain (GK), Lowe, Bailey, McDonald, White, Cooke, MacPherson, Hughes (Urwin 68), Foster (Maguire56), Everall, Lennon (Lane 67)
Subs not used Mitchell, Aspinwall
Goal Everall 46
Booked Hughes (foul), McDonald (handball)

Referee Michael D’Aguilar (Cannock)
Attendance 301