Nantwich Town secured a vital away win in a 2-0 victory at fellow play-off contenders Stalybridge Celtic.

First half goals from Joe Mwasile and Jimmy Lawrie proved the difference, as did the Dabbers dominant defending in the face of Stalybridge pressure in the second half.

The game started strongly for Dave Cooke and his side. Mwasile was getting a lot of freedom on the left hand side and was found by his teammates on several occasions, the first of which led to a half chance for Ethon Varian, who scuffed an effort on his weaker left foot while looking to add to his impressive double against Hyde.

It was no surprise that when the opening goal came, it was from that left side. The ball squirmed off a falling Varian to Mwasile, who played a clever one-two with Sean Cooke and squeezed the ball in smartly at the near post to the delight of the travelling support behind the goal, and the surprise of home keeper Alex Fojticek who thought he had his angles covered.

The Dabbers had openings to add to the lead. Varian wasn’t able to get his feet sorted as the ball broke through to him just after the 20 minute mark following a long ball by Matty Devine that was misjudged by the Stalybridge defence.

Shortly after this, the home side started to create chances of their own. Stalybridge top scorer Darius Osei outmuscled Josh Langley down the left and his cutback was met by Scott Bakkor, only to be saved excellently by Greg Hall, who looked as if he had dived past it but a crucial trailing foot kept the ball out.

Then another chance came for Varian. Joel Stair intercepted a Stalybridge pass and immediately played in Varian, clean through the Stoke academy product was smothered well by Fojticek, and Varian’s rebound was blocked away.

After this squandered chance, it may have been natural for Dabbers players and fans to start to think they might rue these chances later in the game.

But they needn’t have worried, as eight minutes before the break, Nantwich did double the lead.

The goal came from almost nothing, a seemingly routine throw-in from Devine in Stalybridge territory went to Cooke, who made to go one way then went the other, playing a looping ball into the box that was tucked away by Jimmy Lawrie, who had snuck into the box unmarked with a Frank Lampard style late run.

A Paddy Lacey free kick slid just past the post for Stalybridge to allow the Dabbers to go into half time with a two goal lead.

The second period was a tense, tight battle that saw Stalybridge ramp up pressure but that defence standing strong.

Adam O’Reilly hooked over early on, then the Dabbers blew a sigh of relief as Scott Bakkor was penalised for impeding Greg Hall as he headed in.

There were half chances for Nantwich to extend the lead further, set pieces finding Joel Stair on two separate occasions but he was unable to test the keeper.

Stalybridge continued to press to get back into the game, and nearly did inside the last ten minutes, Chris Smalley winning a header from a Celtics corner and Greg Hall had to save volleyball style, pushing the ball into the air and over in what was another big performance from the Dabbers stopper.

The backline stayed stubborn, and after Cooke saw a final effort blocked, Nantwich could celebrate a much-earned win and clean sheet, and even more crucially, remaining in touching distance of those play-off spots.

Teams

Stalybridge Celtic: Fojticek, Walker (Dent, 65), Mantack, Taylor (Whitehead, 57), O’Halloran (C), Smalley, Bakkor, Lacey, Osei, O’Reilly, Walker

Subs not used: Freedman, Macdevitt

Nantwich Town: Hall, Bourne, Devine, Stair, Langley, Harrison, Lawrie (C), Webb (Saxon, 66), Varian, Cooke, Mwasile (Saunders, 68)

Subs not used: Davis, Hawkins, Parker

Goals: Mwasile 13′, Lawrie 37′

Attendance: 314