The second and third placed clubs in the Hallmark Security Premier Division faced off at the Kensite Stadium and in a very close affair it was the Collieries who prevailed through a solitary Ben Hardcastle first half strike.

The opening twenty minutes was cagey with the sides showing each other an enormous amount of respect with the visitors edging it slightly. Colls first real opportunity was on 24 minutes when Gareth Peet fed Mark Truffas whose curling shot was saved well by Greg Hall.

From the resultant corner the all important goal was scored.

Vinny Bailey caught the 1874 rearguard on their heels, picking up a short corner before bamboozling his marker on the byline. He played the ball back to Neil Chappell who, against his former club, shot through fresh air but Hardcastle was on the spot to smash in from 15 yards out.

Chappell was keen to score against his old side and he launched a strong effort from the edge of the box but it flew over the crossbar. Jason Carey had 1874’s best effort but Adam Reid was equal to it.

The second period was just as competitive with Colls exerting more of the pressure but clear cut chances were kept to a minimum. Reid pulled off a fantastic reaction save from a low free kick before more Bailey skill set up Jordan Cover who uncharacteristically scuffed the gilt edged chance wide of the goalposts.

Last gasp defending foiled the persistent Chappell again then the blue bandana wearing Hall excellently tipped over a goal bound snapshot. Referee Appleby played six minutes injury time and the final peal of his whistle saw the home players and supporters collectively exhale a huge sigh of relief.

The match was played before a second consecutive Kensite Stadium crowd over 400 and credit goes to both sets of fans who supported their heroes with passion throughout. Colls edged the possession 51% to 49% (according to the Colls statistic guru) so the match was even matched as it should be when second lock horns with third.

For the second time in a week a 1-0 victory enabled Michael Clegg’s team to draw level with leaders Bootle on points. There are still five teams left in the title hunt and with just short of a third of the campaign remaining there promises to be many twists and turns before a champion is crowned.

Next Saturday Colls host Congleton Town in a Hallmark Security Premier Division clash. KO 3pm

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