BILLINGE came back empty-handed from a freezing cold, windswept and Storm Deidre-drenched Congleton on Saturday.

While the pitch at Booth Street, although heavy, was perfectly playable it was the gale-force wind and driving heavy rain that spoiled the game as a spectacle as The Storks fell to a 2-0 defeat.

It was a Billinge side decimated by injuries and unavailability that took to the field and whilst they all, individually, gave everything it was Vale Rovers that prevailed in the end.

Playing up the slight slope and with the wind against them The Storks were immediately under the cosh as keeper Joe Taylor pulled off a superb save in the first minute to deny the impressive Aaron Cook.

Three minutes later it took a great recovery tackle from Dean Curtis to prevent the same man getting a shot away.

At the other end Jamie Anderson threaded a beautiful pass through for leading marksman Phil Dearden but the ball just evaded him.

Taylor again had to be at his best as he pulled off another wonder-save from a shot by Congleton captain Richie Booth then on the 15-minute mark Curtis was again on hand to block a shot.

Six minutes later Dearden was again almost on for a chance, this time after a fine ball from Richie Allen, but while a goal looked certain a late flag went up for offside.

However on 23 minutes The Storks were behind when a long cross found an unmarked Stanley Tatters who looped his header over Taylor and into the goal.

Billinge’s response was immediate as a Congleton defender Jonny Proudlove denied Curtis a headed goal from a Chris Cottington free-kick.

With the gale getting up further steam Vale Rovers were now dominant as Tatters went close with a 22-yard free-kick while Oliver Griffiths’ low cross bypassed everybody in the six-yard box before Tatters again hit a fine effort just wide.

The half finished with good pressing by Kyle Ross causing confusion amongst the Congleton defence but the ball went dead denying Ross a follow-up shot.

Ross began the second period as he finished the first, this time Cameron Phelps saved well to negate his effort.

On 51 minutes Congleton almost doubled their lead when Cook took a terrific free-kick that hit the top of Taylor’s bar.

Billinge were desperately trying to get into the game with Shaun Brady at the centre of the action.

Firstly he cut inside and unleashed a shot from the edge of the box only to see it go wide.

Then he hit a shot over the bar after good work from Ross had forced a corner.

Dearden, who was carrying an injury and ordinarily would have sat this game out, battled bravely upfront but the flag again denied him a scoring opportunity and then great work on the right saw the striker’s cross turned away for a corner.

On 70 minutes Ross was again the provider putting a perfect cross onto Curtis’ head but the midfielder put it wide.

Ten minutes later Brady found himself chasing a through-ball but Phelps gathered just in time.

It looked like Billinge might get something out of the game as they pressed forward but they still had to be on their guard at the other end.

A stray pass from Curtis was picked up by Cook but Taylor was again on hand with an excellent save to keep the scoreline at 1-0.

The Storks’ excellent young keeper denied Cook with another great block but on 89 minutes the impressive Congleton man had his goal; with Billinge going all out for the equaliser he was left in acres of space, took the ball around Taylor and calmly slotted home to make the game safe for the home side.

After the game Billinge chairman John Evans said: “A massive shout out for all the Billinge players today.

“We had to make lots of changes once again, but the lads fought bravely once again in very difficult conditions.

“I thought both sides along with the referee and his assistants deserved all the credit as that was some of the nastiest weather I’ve ever seen at a football game.”

Billinge now have a week off before facing Crewe FC at home on Saturday 29 December.

Kick-off at Barrows Farm is 2pm.