PRESTWICH Heys’ hopes of securing a top-four spot in the First Division North – and guarantee FA Cup football next season – were dealt a potentially damaging blow as they lost 2-1 at home to fourth-placed AFC Liverpool.

The defeat leaves Heys eight points behind their Merseyside rivals with eight games to play – not an impossible task but a big ask for any team.

Heys’ performance was good as they were denied by the woodwork three times as well as squandering other chances. But there was no doubting the quality of the opposition who defended well and looked dangerous whenever they went forward.

Early opportunities saw Liverpool’s Callum Schorah fire a free kick over and, at the other end Dom Slaven’s shot was blocked, a Lee Bruce header went wide and Adam Farrell’s effort came back off the inside of the post.

Liverpool, on the back of seven straight league wins, were also lively in attack and led on 20 minutes, the ever-dangerous Schorah unleashing a super 30-yard shot over the back-pedalling Michael Smith.

Heys drew level 10 minutes later, Danny White’s free kick being met by Farrell, who rose highest to deftly glance a header into the bottom corner.

The half-time break came just as tempers began to flare, with stern challenges coming in from both teams.

As the second half got under way Heys were quicker out of the traps and Brad Sixsmith shot straight at Lee Carr in goal, who also denied Lee Grimshaw.

Then, the visitors broke to score a terrific goal, Phil Heron’s cross headed powerfully home by Anthony Lyons.

Heys continued to enjoy the bulk of the possession and White saw his free kick come back off the crossbar. Farrell then went close with a header from a Carl Fitton cross as Heys did most of the pressing but looked susceptible when the visitors broke.

It took a smart low save by Smith to keep out Louis Hayes’ shot, and a deflection sent Rhys Hardacre’s effort just wide.

In Heys’ final push. Sixsmith saw his cross-shot come off the bar and Cory Knight forced another save from Carr.

With five minutes left Will Shawcross and Knight carved open the Liverpool defence and found Farrell in space 12 yards out. But, though he was the one man Heys would have wanted in that position, he put his shot wide.

Smith saved from Schorah shortly after to keep Heys in the game, and a minute from time, Shawcross unleashed a super shot that was tipped over and Liverpool survived.

Heys return to action on Saturday with a trip to Nelson, kick off 3pm.