WINSFORD United feel hard done by after pushing Atherton Collieries, favourites to win the title, to the limit on Monday.

Blues deserved better than to return home empty-handed after delivering one of their best performances of the campaign so far.

They took the lead too, when Nathan Cotterell drilled past goalkeeper Adam Reid after side-stepping defenders’ attempts to stop him.

It was no fluke, and Colls’ custodian was kept busy.

He was swift from his line to deny Scott Taylor, then stopped the wide man’s header.

At the other end, Reid’s opposite number Matthew Green was called into action to save at the foot of an upright to deny Mark Truffas.

Cotterell’s next effort was parried by the goalkeeper, while captain Kyle Riley fired high from the rebound.

The hosts gradually woke up, and Vinnie Bailey was denied from close range when Green blocked instinctively.

Colls drew level in first-half stoppage time, when Jordan Cover blasted into the net a loose ball inside the penalty area.

However Winsford started the second period in the same way as they had the first.

Riley had an attempt blocked on the line, then James Rothwell’s driven cross was diverted narrowly over his own crossbar by defender Jamie Forbes.

Against the run of play, Blues fell behind.

George West applied the finishing touch to a slick collective movement that involved Cover and Ben Hardcastle.

Undeterred, the visitors again called on Reid to intervene when player-manager Lee Duckworth arced a free kick towards goal.

Cotterell met substitute Aaron Stott’s cross with a header, only to again be denied by a defender.

Rothwell nodded narrowly wide, then a scramble inside the hosts’ box ended with the midfielder appealing for a penalty after he fell while lining up a shot.

Referee Leigh Doughty was unimpressed though.

Another shout, this time after Blues felt a defender had handled, also fell on deaf ears.

Winsford have not won any of their past five matches in the North West Counties League’s top-flight, but this display keeps alive hopes they can finish inside the top 10.

Colls | Reid (GK), Kenny, Peet, Messer, Forbes, Grimshaw, Hardcastle, Bailey (Mason 74), Cover (Battersby 88), West (Sherlock 59), Truffas Subs not used Gorman, Brookes Goals Cover 45, West 56 Booked Messer, Grimshaw, Truffas, Mason

Winsford | Green (GK), Henson, Duckworth, Rothwell, Foster, Howell, Taylor (Stott 46), Steele, Riley, Johnson (Cook 69), Cotterell Subs not used Bircumshaw, Osborne (GK) Goal Cotterell 10 Booked Henson, Howell, Riley, Johnson, Stott

Referee Leigh Doughty

Attendance 233