NORTHWICH Victoria reached a third cup semi final of the season after shutting out the Evo-Stik League’s freest scoring team.

Skem, who have found the net in every match since New Year’s Day, do not fire blanks often.

Manager Tommy Lawson rested hotshot Chris Almond with one eye on Saturday’s crunch clash with Vics’ Cheshire neighbours Chester.

And, their attack shorn of its sharpest shooter, the hosts offered only a sporadic threat.

They trailed on seven minutes when old boy Tony Evans stooped low to steer Louis Barnes’ inswinging free kick past goalkeeper Andy Paxton.

Once in front, Vics administered their lead efficiently.

Skem still had sights of goal – Matty McGinn curved an effort off target after following his own long throw and David Roberts arrowed a volley straight at custodian Ryan Jones – but too few to trouble the visitors.

Indeed, the teenager’s toughest test was to parry McGinn’s free kick wide of an upright eight minutes before the break.

At the other end, Evans could not curl an effort enough to creep into the net after making room to shoot.

The hosts’ most sustained spell of pressure followed the interval though.

Substitute Gareth Peet ghosted past too many phantom tackles after cutting in from the touchline only to shoot feebly when he caught sight of goal.

Jones then repeated his first half trick, pawing clear another McGinn free kick after Raphale Evans had harshly been punished for handball.

Karl O’Donnell flashed a shot across the face of goal from Skelmersdale’s next attack, but Northwich put the tie out of reach with their next foray forward on 72 minutes.

Replacement Pedro Monteiro’s clipped pass caught out the home team’s square defence, prompting Andy Fowler to race clear and sweep in a fine finish from an acute angle.

On-loan midfielder Adam Roberts’ shot scraped a post in stoppage time after Barnes’ clever assist had conjured the chance, although a third goal would have distorted the difference between the teams too much.

Vics’ Star Man Louis Barnes. Diligent in defence and always willing to join the attack, from where his contributions are more often than not measured and constructive.

A word too for Raphale Evans and Ryan Jones, who both had their best games in green and white to date.

Skelmersdale (4-4-2) Paxton (GK), Lloyd, David Roberts, Armstrong, Strickland, Mooney (Peet 25), Morley, McGinn (Parle 66), Lomax, O’Donnell (Forrester 79), Tuck
Subs not used Brocklehurst (GK), Mawdsley
Booked McGinn (foul)

Vics (4-3-3) Jones (GK), Law, Collins (Byron 51), Raphale Evans, Barnes, Roberts, Roddy (Fitzpatrick 78), Riley, Peers (Monteiro 68), Tony Evans, Fowler
Subs not used McArdle, McAliskey
Goals Tony Evans 7, Fowler 72
Booked Raphale Evans (handball), Adam Roberts (foul)

Referee Ryan Johnson (Manchester)
Attendance 122