Prestwich Heys maintained their push for promotion with a tense and hard-earned 4-2 victory over Squires Gate at Adie Moran Park on Saturday.

Two goals apiece for Rio Clegg and Greg Daniels proved decisive as Heys were pushed all the way by their lively visitors who threatened to overcome the three-goal half time advantage the hosts had built. Indeed, Heys spent much of the second half on the back foot after seeing Regan Brown dismissed as Squires Gate pulled the score back to 3-2 before Daniels settled matters in added time.

With several of the teams around them in the table not in League action Heys kicked off knowing this was a crucial fixture, being one of their games in hand and after a fast-paced opening they got off to the prefect start, taking the lead in the 4th minute. The goal came on the back of a surging run by Jacob Ngoy as the full back burst int the penalty area and cut past a defender on the by line, before pulling the ball back across goal for Clegg to pole home from six yards out.

Squires Gate have found it tough going this season and came into the game second bottom of the table, but their response was far from a team that might be low on confidence as they put together some good football to keep Heys on their toes. James Hughes fired a shot just wide before a crisp 16th minute move culminated in a Nathan Cliffe shot, from the edge of the area, that thudded against the foot of the post.

The let off prompted Heys back into attacking action and a swift break ended with Clegg hitting an angled a shot that was palmed to safety by ‘keeper Nathan Pennington. More nice play followed as Danny White’s deft pass played in Daniels, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner from which Captain Aaron Chalmers volleyed over.

On the half hour, Heys momentum was rewarded with a second goal. The lively, Matt Davies was brought down as he cut into the penalty area and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot from which Daniels fired home.

Cliffe fired over for the away side shortly after, but Heys were now in full flow, and they added a fine third goal in the 36th minute. When Davies received the ball wide out and close to the by line with two defenders in close attention there seemed little danger, but the Heys man showed quick feet and some incredible skill to shake off his markers and break into the box before crossing for Clegg to fire home on the half volley.

With a commanding lead, Heys looked in the box seat going into a second half that commenced with the injured White having to be replaced by the returning Leighton Egan, who last played for the club in 2018. Five minutes in they then saw Kyle Jacobs sin binned and it seemed they were determined to hit the self-destruct button when, after a further five minutes had elapsed, a rash challenge by Brown saw him dismissed, leaving his side temporarily with nine men.

The visitors had already made a good start to the half to show they hadn’t given up on things and set about taking advantage of Heys shortcomings. Cliffe brought a great save from Jordan Hadlow on the hour as they dominated possession and in the 65th minute their endeavour brought them a goal. A super cross from Rowan Chambers was met by an equally fine header by Gary Pett, which looped over Hadlow and into the far corner.

With Heys unable to find any rhythm, Squires Gate continued to press forward with some fine football, stretching the ten men of Heys and in the 73rd minute it was game on as the visitors claimed a second goal. As the ball was worked wide James Hughes cuts inside before curling a shot into the far corner to put the outcome firmly in the melting pot.

Sensing their chance of a dramatic fightback, Gate continued to press but in committing more men forward they began to leave more space for Heys to exploit. Davies and Daniels twice combined to take their side downfield with the former breaking and picking out the latter whose shots both went wide of goal.

As the tension mounted, Hadlow was called into action to keep out an Adrian Kandeke shot and loud claims for a penalty for handball were waived aside before in added time Heys put the result beyond doubt.

A crossfield pass was intercepted by Davies and his pace opened up what remained of the visitors’ defence to leave Heys two on one. Davies’ pass and Daniels run were both perfectly timed and as the keeper advanced the latter slotted home to the delight of the home fans and his teammates.

So, another three points for Heys and whilst they sometimes do things the hard way their resilience has seen them collect thirty points from their last thirteen outings, suffering just one defeat, putting them in the play-off places and within four points of leaders Bury.

TEAM: Jordan Hadlow, Jacob Ngoy, Saidkhon Khamidov, Pa Jenkins, Regan Brown, Aaron Chalmers, Danny White, Kyle Jacobs, Greg Daniels, Rio Clegg, Matt Davies Subs: Brad Sixsmith, Jack Coop, Ryley Smith (for Clegg 69 mins), Nathan Bartram-Conway, Leighton Egan (for White 45 mins)