NICK Baldwin’s right boot made the difference for Northwich during a close encounter with Altrincham.

He kicked four penalties during the second half on Saturday to help Blacks register a third win against their neighbours during the current campaign.

It keeps them on course for a top-three finish in North One West ahead of a meeting with promotion-hopefuls Birkenhead Park.

Director of rugby Martin Poste granted a debut to Richard Hart following Sam Naylor’s late withdrawal, and he slotted into a vacancy on the wing left by Robin Houghton’s departure.

It was the hosts that scored first though inside five minutes, opting for an attacking lineout after their guests conceded a penalty.

After securing the ball, their drive to the line proved unstoppable.

Altrincham assumed control, and their forwards tempted Northwich into an arm-wrestle for the next quarter of an hour.

Blacks ended the deadlock in the same way their opponents had, Nick Baldwin’s neat side-step creating an opportunity for him to score following a lineout after a penalty award.

He added the extras, establishing a narrow 7-5 interval lead.

The second half was high on attrition, punctuated by breaks from full-back Joel Barber, Aaron Brown and Bud Skinkis.

However it was Baldwin, reliable as ever with his kicking, that made the different with four penalties during a 15-minute spell.

Altrincham, only five points above the bottom two in the table, attempted to recover.

Their persistence earned a reward in stoppage time when, after a series of penalties, they secured another lineout.

As they had been earlier in the contest, their pack proved too strong and they powered over the whitewash.

It left Northwich feeling relieved to hear the referee’s final whistle two minutes later.

Northwich | Phillips, Thompson, Michael Bradshaw, Dudley, Heywood, Lindsay, English, Chris Dale, Poste, Baldwin, Skinkis, Underhill, Brown, Hart, Barber Replacements Purbrick, Lloyd, Vaughan Try Baldwin Con Baldwin Pens Baldwin (4)