A 75TH-MINUTE Adrian Bellamy goal gave Prestwich Heys a hard-earned 2-1 victory over AFC Darwen at Adie Moran Park.

On a heavy pitch this was never a game for the purists but with both sides harbouring promotion hopes the Adie Moran Park crowd was treated to a rousing, full blooded game with the result in the balance right up to the final whistle.

Darwen arrived as one of the form teams of the North West Counties First Division North with seven wins in their last nine games and with memories of a 2-1 home win against Heys over Christmas still fresh in the mind they made the better start.

Their efforts were rewarded in the eighth minute as they took the lead.

Heys were caught out playing the ball out from the back as keeper Tom Simpson miscued to Leon Creech to put his side in trouble.

However, the home side’s stopper pulled off a superb close-range save to keep out the Darwen striker, but the ball broke invitingly for Jamie Edwards to slot home.

It was not until the 12th minute that Heys threatened as Jamie Hill broke before firing wide.

However, it signalled a growing momentum towards the home team with Hill and his opposite wide man Will Shawcross causing increasing

problems for the Darwen defence.

When the wingers swapped flanks the pressure was ratcheted up a little more and in the 32nd minute Heys levelled.

There was an element of fortune about the goal as Shawcross cut inside and delivered a cross that swung viciously in the air to go in off the inside of the post.

Shawcross then saw a shot blocked before putting in a cross that saw Oliver Hatfield-Banton nip in at the near post but poke wide.

However, Darwen’s threat was still present and when Edwards burst clear in the 40th minute it looked like a certain goal, but Simpson excelled in smothering his shot at close range.

It was the visitors who made the stronger start to the second half and Creech fired just over after some crisp passing.

However, Heys were quick to respond. Shawcross broke clear but was blocked by a superb cover tackle by Darwen keeper Connor Stone before the hugely impressive Joe Rothwell stung the stopper’s hands with a 25-yard shot.

With both sides going for it the intensity and pace of the game was unrelenting. The tackles flew in thick and fast as the battle for supremacy raged.

Darwen thought they had gained the upper hand in the 67th minute with Simpson making a great save before Mason Livesey netted on the follow-up, only to be flagged offside.

Back came Heys and in the 75th minute they took the lead. A great run into the box by Brad Sixsmith ended with his shot being blocked.

From the ensuing corner, delivered deep to the far post by Shawcross, Bellamy rose to head powerfully home.

That set the scene for a tense finale, Darwen pushing more men forward, Heys defending stoutly while looking to break forward.

As the game entered injury time Darwen forced successive corners, the home crowd held their breath but Heys players held their nerve and saw out the victory to gain a measure of revenge, as well as three valuable points.

Heys travel to Nelson on Saturday (3pm) before welcoming second-placed place AFC Emley next Tuesday (7.45pm).