WINSFORD United led twice against Squires Gate on Saturday only for Gary Pett to score an equaliser on both occasions.

He fluffed a chance to complete a hat-trick, and with it condemn Blues to a defeat their performance did not deserve, when he failed to hit the target with a header four minutes from time.

The visitors can make a case the contest should have been over before then.

They started brightly, and player-manager Lee Duckworth’s attempt from Scott Taylor’s corner was smuggled off the line by Andrew Richards inside the opening minute.

Will Foster’s header was narrowly off-target from Duckworth’s free-kick, as was James Rothwell’s effort.

Winsford did break through on 16 minutes though when Nathan Cotterell’s forward burst ended with a through-ball that Michael Koral converted brilliantly from an acute angle.

However Gate drew level against the run of play when Pett sent a lobbed finish over goalkeeper Matthew Green while the visitors appealed for offside.

Blues ought to have regained the lead shortly after the interval when Cotterell carved his way through the home team’s defence before laying off to Robbie Hatton.

However the teenager’s blast whistled wide.

Foster was more accurate on 57 minutes, poking the ball inside the near post after meeting Tayor’s delivery from a set-piece.

Duckworth had to time perfectly an interception to thwart Pett, while at the other end Taylor’s volley glanced off the crossbar.

Blues were left frustrated again when Gate custodian Ben Fletcher appeared to claw Koral’s shot to safety after it had crossed the goal-line, only for referee Craig Buxton to gesture for play to continue.

Pett’s second equaliser arrived on 73 minutes when Michael Thomas’ attempted clearance struck an opponent and diverted into the front man’s path.

His finish was an unerring one.

Winsford cursed their luck a final time when Duckworth’s free-kick was deflected onto the woodwork, although they breathed a sigh of relief as well when Pett missed that late sitter.

Gate | Fletcher (GK), Colquhoun, Richards, Hall, O’Mahoney, Carroll, Gray, Mullen (Charnley 42), Pett, Buchan (Moorhead 90), Moxon (Atack 66) Sub not used Masters Goals Pett 35, 73 Booked Colquhoun

Winsford | Green (GK), Thomas, Bircumshaw, Hopper, Lee Duckworth, Foster, Taylor, Rothwell, Koral, Hatton (Gardner 66), Cotterell Subs not used Webb, Sherwood, Joe Duckworth Goals Koral 16, Foster 57 Booked Cotterell

Referee Craig Buxton

Attendance 90

Match report by Bob Astles