Heys hopes hit as Alport triumph
First half penalty dents Heys automatic promotion hopes
Heys hope of automatic promotion were dealt a possible fatal blow as they were defeated by Whitchurch Alport at Adie Moran Park.
Jon Lyons’ team went into the match on the back of six successive wins, knowing that if they could get maximum points from their remaining four games they would gain promotion to the Premier Division.
However, they came up against a strong Alport side, with designs on promotion themselves through the play-offs, who were well organised, resolute and in a game of few clear-cut chances they took the points courtesy of a Simon Everall penalty in the 34th minute.
In chilly, blustery conditions this game was often untidy but what it lacked for the purist, it made up for in sheer endeavour as two of the division’s top sides slugged it out.
Heys enjoyed the best of the early possession but found it hard, as they sought an early goal, to create any openings.
Alport themselves responded with a couple of corners but it quickly became clear that defences were ruling the roost.
The visitors looked very well organised stifling Heys threat at every turn and they began to build some momentum of their own.
Indeed, as the half progressed they emerged the stronger and the deadlock was broken in the 34th minute.
A ball played into the box saw Jacob Holt collide with Sean Griffiths as he looked to shoot. From the resultant penalty Everall sent Mike Smith the wrong way to give his side the lead.
Against one of the meanest defences in the League, Heys looked to be facing a real test against a determined Alport side who held their lead to the interval, doing what few sides have managed, in preventing the hosts from creating any clear openings.
It was clear Heys had to look to up the ante in the second period and they came out in much livelier fashion. The pace and movement, largely absent in the first half, began to emerge and for the first time in the evening they began to find some gaps in the Alport defence.
Heys did have the ball in the net in the 58th minute when Lee Grimshaw turned in the box and fired home but he was adjudged to have handled in controlling the ball.
Moments later Alfie Belcher found space and fired in a shot that Alport keeper David Parton got down well to block and in the ensuing scramble Heys appeals for a handball were waived aside.
Alport eased the pressure and went mightily close to increasing their lead in the 62nd minute when Everall’s close range header was tipped onto the bar by Smith before the ball was headed to safety from under the bar by Danny White.
Cruelly for Danny, who has been so influential this season, he was not to see the game out. As Heys returned to the attack his efforts at winning the ball on the edge of the Alport area saw him stay down injured in the 74th minute before being carried from the pitch with a knee injury that will rule him out of the rest of the season.
Entering the final quarter, Heys had to up the stakes, pushing more men forward left them open to the counter, making for a tense finale.
Jacob Holt headed over from a corner before Parton pulled off another good save to keep out John Main’s low shot following good work by Grimshaw.
With Jake Wood pushed into the attack, some scrambling defence continued to thwart Heys.
They were to be denied again in the last minute by Parton who dropped low to keep out a Main shot and thus ensure his side a hard-earned victory.
It made for a disappointing night for Heys with the defeat and the injury to White. However, they need one more win to be assured of third and home advantage in the play offs. As they head to Bacup and Daisy Hill in the next few days all they can do in terms of automatic promotion is win their games and see if Litherland slip up.
TEAM: Michael Smith, Darius Photiou, Carl Fitton, Max White, Jacob Holt, Jake Wood (Capt), Danny White, Lee Grimshaw, Alfie Belcher, Lee Bruce, Rio Wilson-Heyes Subs: Ashley Stott (for Bruce 74 mins), John Main ( for Danny White 74mins), Danny Vincent, Sven Gibson, Anthony Hall