A SIXTH-minute strike from Joe Rothwell was enough for Prestwich Heys to see off North West Counties Premier Division League leaders Macclesfield FC in an action-packed game at Adie Moran Park on Monday in front of a bumper Bank Holiday crowd of more than 400.

Heys had gone more than two weeks without a fixture after the Christmas schedule was cancelled because of a combination of Covid and bad weather and so were fresh and raring to go with manager Matt Barnes including new signing, striker Lee Knight, who joined from 1874 Northwich on New Year’s Eve.

Prestwich were straight into the action from the first minute taking control in midfield with Brad Sixsmith and Corey Kelly commanding.

And six minutes in the positive start paid off. Regan Jarrett charged down the left, knocking in a deep cross which eluded Greg Daniels but picked up the run of right-back Rothwell who struck from 12 yards to the bottom left of Macc keeper Sam Ashton’s goal to the roar of the home crowd.

Heys’ intensity continued as Daniels was brought down in the box, but the referee waved play on and this ignited the visitors into a good spell with Brandon Lee looking lively. He made a dazzling run into the box in the 14th minute, but the Heys defence cleared and had keeper Russ Saunders behind them in confident mood.

Rothwell was in action again on 18 minutes with a great pass to the in-form Jarrett but he saw his shot go over the bar before Rothwell himself saw a low drive saved by Ashton.

Back came Macclesfield on the half hour with Saunders tipping a free-kick over the bar from James Berry-McNally and saving again from Aaron Dwyer shortly after as the frantic tempo continued until the break.

The visitors were quickly out of the blocks in the second half and a goalbound shot was cleared off the line.

This was a big alert to the home side who came back strongly and should have increased the lead shortly after when a cross-shot by Sixsmith on the right went agonisingly past debutant Knight who just could not stretch far enough to tap home from close range.

Heys continued to press with and in the 65th minute Kelly, who was dangerous all afternoon, fired just wide of Ashton’s post.

The final quarter saw Macclesfield increase the pressure and in the 76th minute they had the ball in the net as Berry-McNally’s shot met the head of Tom Clare who found the bottom left corner only for the referee to rule offside and this was to be a key moment in the game.

Heys midfielder Sam Dickinson replaced striker Jack Coop as boss Barnes decided on extra strength in the middle to see out the game and Dickinson did not disappoint with a couple of superb tackles in the closing stages.

Frustrations from the visitors boiled over with 10 minutes to go with Macclesfield’s Berry -McNally dismissed for dissent leaving them down to 10 men and Prestwich held firm to the final whistle inflicting Macclesfield’s third defeat of the season.

The Heys players left the pitch to a standing ovation from an ecstatic crowd and Barnes expressed his pride in the team after the game.

Heys remain at Adie Moran Park on Saturday when they host Barnoldswick Town (3pm).