JUSTIN Pickering’s 25th-minute goal gave Prestwich Heys a 1-0 victory over Premier Division 1874 Northwich in an absorbing first qualifying-round tie at Adie

Moran Park.

The visitors will wonder how they lost. They dominated possession and created multiple chances.

The fact they did not succeed was down to a magnificent defensive display by Heys.

True, they rode their luck, particularly in the early stages when the woodwork twice came to their rescue, but their endeavour and discipline never wavered.

As it was, on a day when a host of experienced regulars – including the White brothers, Jake Wood, Mark Ayres, Dom Slaven and Shelton Payne – were missing, the younger members of the Heys squad stood as one to pull off a superb win.

It would be harsh to single out individuals but notable performances did come from goalkeeper Russ Saunders, who always seemed in the right place, and Adrian Bellamy – a rock in the heart of the defence – directed,

cajoled and gave a calm reassurance to those around them.

Vase semi-finalists two seasons ago, Northwich sit third in the North West Counties Premier and average three goals a game, so were brimming with confidence.

Their early pace and movement threatened to blow Heys away.

In only the third minute Lee Knight unleashed a shot that beat Saunders before coming off the underside of the bar, onto the post and out.

Scott McGowan then twice went close before he also cannoned a shot against the woodwork.

Saunders then denied McGowan with a sharp save low down, after a lightning-fast break.

Having weathered the storm, Heys’ Rio Wilson-Heyes then poked wide from close range.

But in the 25th minute Heys took the lead. Wilson-Heyes cut in from the wing and picked out Will Shawcross on the edge of the area who then teed the ball up for Pickering to sweetly steer the ball low into the bottom corner.

1874 continued to enjoy the majority of the possession but their earlier freedom was stifled and Heys looked a threat on the break.

Just before the interval Wilson-Heyes seized on a loose ball and his dipping shot, from 20 yards, just cleared the bar.

The second half followed a similar pattern with the visitors pressing and probing, with Lee Jackson seeing his early 20-yard shot tipped over by Saunders, who got down low to save a McGowan effort on the hour mark.

With Northwich pushing more resources forward, Heys might have put the game beyond their opponents with chances to counter.

That they didn’t kept the game on a knife edge. McGowan shot across the face of goal and Saunders scrambled a deflected clearance by Bellamy round the post.

Heys continued to chase, close and harry throughout. When a player was pulled out of position and a space appeared, a team mate was soon on the scene to cover.

Northwich’s play began to get untidy, illustrated in the 84th minute when goalkeeper Tony Aghayere cleared straight to Haydn Foulds. Unfortunately, the striker was not able to

punish the recovering stopper.

A nervous finale ensued with Northwich throwing everything forward. However, Heys’ resilience grew ever stronger and they saw out a famous victory that earns them a second qualifying-round tie at home to Charnock Richard on Saturday, September 14 (3pm).

With no game this weekend – Heys have a bye in the First Division Cup – they return to action next Tuesday at AFC Blackpool.