PRESTWICH Heys will take a slender advantage into the second leg of their LWC Drinks First Division Cup semi-final after a battling 2-1 win at Sandbach United.

In bitterly cold conditions and strong winds it was not a game for the purists but what was undeniable throughout was Heys’ spirit.

Playing into the wind in the first half Heys were resolute, limiting the hosts’ opportunities while looking threatening themselves in attack.

It was from two such attacks that Heys scored away goals that may prove crucial in the second leg at home on April 7.

The hosts came into the game on the back of six successive wins, but Heys started the livelier and Max White tested Sandbach keeper Ryan Moss after a crisp passing move.

But the abiding factor was the wind, with both teams battling to come to terms with the conditions.

It was not until the 20th minute that Heys keeper Mark Baguley was called upon, punching Jordan Davies’ free kick to safety.

When Heys got the ball down their play always carried a threat and they took the lead when Alfie Belcher released Lee Bruce to slot in past the advancing Moss.

Sandbach looked to respond and, after Heys survived a scramble in the box, Stuart Tulloch was denied by Baguley superbly tipping his shot around the post.

Prestwich doubled their lead in the 36th minute when they turned defence into attack and White’s low cross was steered home at the far post by Jake Wood.

It was a lead that Heys took into the break but after the restart, it was Sandbach who seized the upper hand, stretching the Prestwich back line more than at any stage in the first period.

In the 51st minute the hosts made their pressure tell when Tulloch got down the right flank before crossing for Davies to smash home from close range.

Belcher fired wide shortly after as Heys looked to respond but they were finding it difficult to reproduce their first-half football, with the wind behind them proving a hindrance.

With momentum on the hosts’ side, Heys were indebted to Baguley as he twice came to their rescue with fine saves to deny James Kirby in one-on-ones.

The hosts continued to apply the pressure but with strengthening winds, dipping temperatures and snow continuing to swirl Heys held firm to secure victory.

Heys have another busy week ahead of them as they host Eccleshall on Saturday (3pm kick off), before visiting Atherton LR on Monday night (7.45pm).

They then welcome Sandbach to Adie Moran Park on Wednesday, March 28 for a First Division fixture (7.45pm).