THEY say it’s the hope you can’t stand.

1874 Northwich supporters still have that, at least, after watching their side succumb to Thatcham Town in the first leg of an FA Vase semi-final.

However there is uncertainty too.

That the visitors left content to have lost 1-0 is evidence they acknowledge a margin between the teams on the scoreboard might have been wider.

Indeed it is difficult to imagine Shane Cooper-Clark, who has scored 45 goals already for their opponents this season, can possibly have the same number of chances when the teams meet again.

If he does, then Northwich won’t be going to Wembley.

They were punished for a slow start, and Mark Jones’ trip on Cooper-Clark inside the penalty area gifted the Kingfishers an opportunity to score inside five minutes.

Ross Cook accepted, and converted the resulting spot-kick.

It unsettled the visitors, and they breathed a sigh of relief after Cooper-Clark, on two occasions in quick succession, sent a shot straight at goalkeeper Greg Hall when he had clear sight of the target.

At the other end, Taylor Kennerley’s prodded effort prompted Thatcham custodian Chris Rackley to save smartly.

However he was less convincing when Jake Parker curved a cross his way, fumbling the ball for a corner.

The atrocious conditions – a bitter wind and intermittent snow showers – were mitigation in the circumstances.

Thatcham then lost Cook, an important part of the supply chain to Cooper-Clark, to injury and briefly lost cohesion.

They had clicked back into gear by the break though and Ekow Elliott, after Cooper-Clark teed him up, was thwarted by Hall’s smart parry.

And the former Glossop North End number one blocked smartly again when Elliott jabbed a loose ball at a corner towards goal, while his opposite number was swift from his line to smother Scott McGowan’s shot after Sam Hind’s flick had sent him haring clear.

Cooper-Clark’s next chance was his clearest but, after a clever spin into a shooting space, Hall’s intervention left the Thatcham striker cursing his luck.

The second-half, on a surface that started to cut up, was unsurprisingly scrappier.

It started as the previous one had ended, with Cooper-Clark again posing a threat.

However the hosts, who had made most of the running, began to fade physically after an hour.

1874 did not take control, but they did conjure an opening for Hind after Kennerley drifted inside off the left flank.

His pass was weighted perfectly, and Rackley produced his best to divert the attacker’s attempt to safety.

Ryan Mitchell stopped Cooper-Clark in shooting stride at the other end with a brilliantly-executed sliding tackle, although by then it was a rare Thatcham foray forward.

The Kingfishers will be happy to travel north next weekend with an advantage, however narrow.

However, like Northwich albeit for a different reason, that sensation may be diluted by those missed chances.

In short, it sets up the return beautifully.

Thatcham | 4-4-2 |Rackley (GK), Miller, Moran, Jarra, Angell, Brownhill (Blount 80), Melledew, Bayley, Elliott (Grant 73), Cook (Gavin James 26), Cooper-Clark Subs not used Ashleigh James, Browne Goal Cook 4 (penalty) Booked Jarra

1874 | 4-3-3 | Hall (GK), Connor, Mitchell, Pritchard, Lee Jackson, Parker, Matthew Woolley (Fallon 80), Jones, Hind (Ryan Jackson 73), McGowan, Kennerley Subs not used Riley, Lever, Meadowcroft Booked Matthew Woolley (foul)

Referee Carl Brook

Attendance 1,134