Peter Tonge tells the story of Northwich Victoria's 2-1 win over Irlam on Saturday...

A CLOSE game, but Vics were dominant in defence and have that man Matty Birchall up front!

Vics started well and White in the Irlam goal was forced into a fine save to tip the ball out for a corner from a Ryan Winder effort in the first minute.

Irlam had a shot blocked in the fourth minute whilst just a minute later, Birchall was denied by a last-ditch tackle by Irlam defender Alex Francis.

Most of the play now was in midfield with limited goalmouth action for either team.

Irlam's Pollittt just failed to connect with a Skinner through ball and in the 24th minute, Irlam put together a good move involving White and Armstrong who played in Max Bardsley-Rowe, who cut the ball back to Ethan Cartwright but he was well crowded out by a solid Vics defence.

As the half progressed, Vics were gradually having more of the ball and pushing forward.

In the 35th minute, a low ball into the box by Vics had to be well defended before Matty Clarke had a long range effort which went not far wide of the post.

However a minute later, Vics took the lead as they broke quickly and after a bit of pinball in the box, the ball was crossed low and Birchall reacted quickest to turn the ball into the net at the far post.

Matty Birchall celebrates opening the scoring against Irlam. Picture by Angela Buckley

Matty Birchall celebrates opening the scoring against Irlam. Picture by Angela Buckley

Vics started the second half looking to improve on their one-goal advantage and immediately forced a corner, from which a well worked routine produced a shot which was goal bound but seemed to be blocked by a Vics' attacker as it headed towards the net.

Two minutes later, Brad Lynch fired in a snap shot which forced White into another fine save.

However, it was Irlam who struck next as Vics failed to clear a cross properly and the ball was chipped back in to find Aaron Skinner who couldn't fail to head the ball home from close range.

This opened the game up though neither keeper was really tested as defences dominated.

Lynch curled a shot just wide after 71 minutes while Skinner for Irlam did well on the edge of the area to create room for a shot which was deflected for a corner.

Lynch then had another long range effort in the 75th minute, this time firing just over the bar.

The big moment came in the 83rd minute as good pressing by Vics won the ball in the Irlam half, and Dave Sherlock played a perfect ball splitting the defence to Birchall who made no mistake as he ran in one-on-one with Irlam keeper White.

A hard tackle by Sherlock near the half way line earned him a yellow card, and the wrath of the Irlam bench who were promptly red carded for their protests by the referee.

Vics played out the final few minutes fairly easily to record a vital victory against a spirited Irlam team.