CALLUM Gardner’s stunning volley settled the outcome of a close encounter in 1874 Northwich’s favour.

The substitute made a perfect connection with Taylor Kennerley’s cross from the left, sending the ball past goalkeeper Craig Ellison before he could react.

It completed a double for the hosts over their Cheshire neighbours.

They will perhaps feel they had to win this meeting twice after letting slip a two-goal lead established inside the opening quarter of an hour.

Scott McGowan put them ahead when he applied the finishing touch to a rehearsed corner routine, volleying through a crowded penalty area from Sam Hare’s cross.

It is his 11th goal against his former club since leaving for Barton Stadium.

He then turned provider for Kennerley to make it 2-0, the wide-man drilling past the Bears’ custodian after McGowan picked him out from the opposite side of the six-yard box.

Northwich Guardian:

Taylor Kennerley scored one goal, and created the other two, during 1874 Northwich's 3-1 win against Congleton Town in the North West Counties League's Premier Division on Saturday. Picture: Ian Dutton

Congleton responded, and Billy Hasler-Cregg ought to have hit the target after Saul Henderson teed him up.

They did score four minutes before the break when former Knutsford midfielder Dean Warburton converted from the penalty spot after Henderson hit the floor following Mark Jones’ challenge.

The Bears needed only two minutes after the interval to restore parity when Henderson steered a neat finish past Coates. Both teams then traded chances to move in front.

Ellison was brave when he dived at Kennerley’s feet to block before McGowan fired over and Jack Irlam guided a header too close to the Congleton number one.

Henderson went close, striking an upright, before Coates kept out Warburton’s shot from distance.

Northwich Guardian:

Lucas Weir's appearance as a second-half substitute was his last for 1874 Northwich ahead of departing to study at a university in the United States of America. Picture: Ian Dutton

The game’s decisive moment followed after Lucas Weir, making his final appearance before leaving to study at a university in America, won back possession and released Kennerley.

He drifted past full-back Dominik Williams before picking out Gardner, who had only been on the field five minutes, and his first-time shot flashed into the corner.

1874 | Coates (GK), Connor, Tinning, Meadowcroft, Jones (Weir 46), Irlam, Koral, Woolley, McGowan (Gardner 67), Hare, Kennerley Subs not used Ormrod, Waite-Jackson, Tucker Goals McGowan 5, Kennerley 16, Gardner 71 Booked Kennerley, Meadowcroft

Bears | Ellison (GK), Williams, Peters, Jamieson (Stephens 65), Morris, Ryder, Hasler-Cregg (McIntosh-Buffonge 77), Warburton, Henderson, Foster, Burey Subs not used Groom, Cooke (GK), Main Goals Warburton 41 (penalty), Henderson 47 Booked Foster

Referee Kristian Silcock

Attendance 271

Additional reporting by Garry Clarke