STEVE Wilkes said Northwich Victoria had goalkeeper Mike Donlon to thank for earning a share of the spoils from their trip to Barnoldswick last weekend.

The visitors’ shot-stopper produced his best form during a second-half spell that Vics spent almost entirely on the back-foot.

“It was a rearguard action for the final 20 minutes,” reflected Wilkes.

“Mike led that, and made two outstanding saves.

“However even more important was how he commanded his penalty area, particularly from all the corners they sent into our box.”

A dour contest sparked to life in the closing stages of the opening period.

Barlick took the lead on 35 minutes when Mark Threlfall reacted quickest to steer a loose ball into the net after Zack Dale’s attempt had struck the base of an upright.

However the home team suffered a blow three minutes later when full-back Liam Blades was shown a red card for hauling down Oscar Durnin when he ran clear.

Referee Mark Reeves then dismissed Vics defender Daniel Johnson after he kicked out at an opponent.

Northwich drew level on 54 minutes when Durnin applied a finishing touch after substitute Ian Willis had unselfishly rolled an assist into his path.

Barlick assumed control for the remainder, and Donlon saved brilliantly from a free-kick before replacement Stuart Airey twice had attempts cleared off the line.

Another substitute, Ben Gorman, also rattled a post.

Wilkes added: “We got into every game trying to win it but having not played since Boxing Day, and with key players missing through injury, I’m happy with a point.

“The only disappointment is a moment of madness from Danny Johnson two minutes after they’d gone down to 10 men.

“He apologised afterwards to his teammates and that’s the end of it, although he’ll now be suspended for three games.”

Barlick | Garnett (GK), Blades, Crorken, Cavanagh, Young, Overson (Airey 55), Dale (Ben Gorman 43), Lloyd (Hill 77), Threlfall, Thompson, Melia Subs not used Hollindrake, Gidley (GK) Goal Threlfall 35 Sent off Blades (foul)

Vics | Donlon (GK), Clarke, Lawrence, Barski, Johnson, Bennett (Fitton 76), Bickett, Johnny Gorman, Durnin, Matthews (Hart 82), Walker (Willis 52) Subs not used Shinks, Weston Goal Durnin 54 Sent off Johnson (violent conduct)

Referee Mark Reeves

Attendance 114