1874 NORTHWICH sit on top of the North West Counties League table for a reason, writes Garry Clarke.

Although never at their best, they kept going until the final whistle and managed to overturn a two-goal deficit to snatch all three points at the JMO Sports Park.

And did they leave it late, Callum Gardner scoring the winning goal five minutes into stoppage time.

Lee Jackson’s pinpoint diagonal cross field pass found Gardner on the left hand side of the Skelmersdale area, bringing the ball down he cut inside on to his right foot and slid the ball into the far corner of the net to spark wild scenes of celebration on the pitch and on the terraces.

Despite having the majority of the play in the first half, 1874 looked ill at ease on a difficult surface which made the weighting of passes and ball control tricky.

Jason Carey opened the scoring for the home side in the fifth minute – Skelmersdale broke quickly down the right wing, a low cross was delivered into the area and the former 1874 player finished emphatically, blasting the ball into the roof of the net.

They doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark when an attempted clearance was intercepted and the ball was played into the path of Emini Adegbenro, who fired home from twelve yards.

1874 were restricted to mainly shooting from distance, with goalkeeper Ben Barnes pulling off good saves to keep out shots from Gardner and Lee Jackson as well as dealing comfortably with a number of high balls played into the area while Mark Jones had a header cleared off the line from a corner just before the break.

1874 were handed a lifeline five minutes into the second half when referee Stuart Morland awarded a penalty after man of the match Harry Cain was bundled over in the area and Gardner squeezed his spot kick under Barnes’ diving body.

The Skelmersdale keeper reacted smartly a few minutes later to turn the ball around the post when a defender deflected a Cain cross towards his own goal from point blank range.

Adapting to the artificial surface, 1874 dominated the second half which was played almost entirely in the Skelmersdale half with the home side rarely advancing.

For all their efforts, 1874 were constantly being thwarted by Barnes and his colleagues until with time running out, Barnes fumbled the ball allowing Stuart Wellstead to nip in and take possession.

Clipped from behind, Wellstead went down prompting Morland to point to the penalty spot for the second time.

Captaining the side for the 200th time, Matt Woolley stepped forward to send Barnes the wrong way to set up Gardner’s dramatic winner as 1874 turned the game on its head to maintain their six-point lead at the head of the Premier Division table.

1874: Aghayere, Koral, Tinning (Russell), Jackson, Jones, Parker, Gardner, Woolley, Wellstead, Hare, Cain. Subs not used Weir, Hind, Duckworth, McGowan