PRESTWICH Heys were reduced to nine men as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Shelley in a ferocious contest at Adie Moran Park.

Heys came from behind to take the lead despite seeing Francesco Frangillo being sent off in the 33rd minute and looked set to record a famous win.

However, the visitors levelled with 10 minutes remaining through the prolific Matty Walker and Heys had to dig deep to secure the point as they then saw Oliver Hatfield-Banton also dismissed in the 86th minute for a second bookable offence.

A draw was the least Matt Barnes’ side deserved. Indeed, for the opening 70 minutes they were the better side before tired legs began to kick in.

The Yorkshire visitors arrived as the form team in the North West Counties Division One North, occupying the fourth promotion place Heys are pursuing.

Starting seven points behind, with a game in hand, it was a match the hosts could not afford to lose, and they made a fast-paced start.

Jamie Hill saw a shot on the turn parried by Shelley keeper Paul Day, who then reacted quickly to block Frangillo on the follow-up. From the ensuing corner Heys penned their opponents in their own box as three separate shots were blocked.

Shelley did ease the pressure and Craig Billington glanced a header wide before they took the lead in the 12th minute. Breaking from defence the ball was worked to Alex O’Keefe who went on a brilliant run down the left before cutting inside and rifling a ferocious shot into the far corner of the net.

Heys responded positively and they levelled seven minutes later as Will Shawcross broke into the box before driving low and seeing a deflection take the ball into the net.

Thereafter, Heys took charge of proceedings. Hill saw a cross deflected wide before Hatfield-Banton’s header was held at full stretch by Day.

However, home hopes were hit when Frangillo was given a straight red card for pushing a Shelley player to the ground with the referee disappointingly not taking into account that the opposition player, who acted like he had been shot, had his arm wrapped round the Heys striker’s neck.

Nonetheless, Heys continued to set the pace. Debutant James Dwyer saw a shot deflected wide before Shawcross broke into the box before firing just wide.

Heys continued to set the pace after the interval. Brad Sixsmith fired just over after some slick football before Hill stung the keeper’s hands with a shot from the edge of the area.

Shelley were hanging on and they too were reduced to 10 men on the hour when Carlton Pownall was sin-binned.

Four minutes later, Heys’ pressure told as they took the lead. Hill went on a mazy dribble into the box before shooting low through a crowded goalmouth and seeing his effort take a deflection into the bottom corner.

Heys’ Herculean efforts on a heavy pitch were beginning to take their toll though and with the visitors committed to saving the game they began to find themselves being pushed back for arguably the first time in the afternoon.

Anthony Leech flashed a near-post header across goal before Heys stopper Russell Saunders saved at the near post from Waller.

However, in the 80th minute Waller did find the net. Breaking down the left, he cut inside before delivering a cross-cum-shot that twisted in the air and dipped under the bar to level matters.

A weary-looking Heys were now having to dig deep to keep the visitors at bay and Craig Billington went mightily close with a header

The battle became even harder when Hatfield-Banton was dismissed but Heys held firm to secure a point.

With AFC Liverpool in Macron Cup action, Heys’ next league fixture is on February 12, when they travel to third-placed AFC Liverpool (7.45pm) for another key promotion clash.

To maintain their match-sharpness, a friendly has been arranged with Heywood St James, to take place at Wright Robinson College in Gorton.

Kick off at the Abbey Hey Lane venue is 2pm.