BILLINGE came away from Knutsford empty-handed on Saturday in a game that could have gone either way.

As it was the feisty game of few chances finished 2-1 to the hosts.

The Manchester Road pitch at Knutsford was in its usual superb condition but the game was marred - as a spectacle - by a very strong wind and 90 minutes of driving rainfall.

With the wind behind them it was reigning champions Knutsford who were the first to show as - following a mistake by the usually reliable Chris Cottington - Milan Thompson found himself bearing down on goal.

He took the ball forward into the area, unleashed a shot but The Storks keeper Joe Taylor got his angles right and pulled off an excellent save.

On the ten-minute mark Thompson hit another good effort but this time Cottington headed clear.

However on 12 minutes the hosts were ahead after Richie Allen was caught on the ball by Brad West.

The striker simply took the ball forward and drew out Taylor who was adjudged by referee Carl Trott to have fouled him just inside the box.

The striker dusted himself down and hit an excellent penalty into the bottom corner of the net to make it 1-0.

The game was now hotting up and Knutsford’s Aaron Clayton was booked on 20 minutes for a bad tackle on Cottington.

Seven minutes later Billinge had their first real attack of the match when a superb tackle from Ryan McCabe was picked up by Ryan Platt who played a lovely long pass into Dean Curtis’ path.

The classy midfielder hit his cross first time but it eluded the onrushing Liam Bowden.

On 34 minutes Knutsford’s Mike Cartner found himself in acres of space but his finish was poor and then two minutes later The Robins’ Ben Woods tried his luck from 25 yards out but his shot went well wide.

With The Storks leading scorer Phil Dearden out injured the makeshift strike force was struggling to make its presence felt with the nearest they came to scoring being in the final minute of the half.

Kyle Ross released a lovely pass to Jake Whiley who flicked the ball to Bowden but - just as he was about to pull the trigger - five yards from goal - the assistant referee’s flag went up for an offside.

The Storks had the wind on their backs in the second half but were still struggling to create any chances as the game continued to be a midfield battle.

On 57 minutes the lively Cartner went close for Knutsford and then on 65 minutes Woods went on a mazy run before hitting a shot narrowly wide of Taylor’s post.

In general Billinge were looking comfortable and two minutes later they were level.

Neat passing between Ross and Curtis created some space for the latter to let fly but the goal bound shot was deflected for a corner.

Ross took the dead ball kick and curled the ball directly into the goal.

The strong wind was undoubtedly a factor but Ross has it in his locker and has scored before directly from a corner.

If Billinge thought they may now press on and look for a winner they were rocked backwards a minute after equalising.

Thompson picked up the ball 35 yards from goal where he tried to play a through ball but the pass rebounded back off a colleague.

With nothing else on the striker took shot from 25 yards out; Taylor had it covered but at the last moment the ball took a wicked deflection off McCabe’s head leaving Taylor stranded and giving the hosts a very fortunate lead.

Both teams huffed and puffed for the final 20 minutes but nobody really threatened the goals with McCabe’s 35-yard effort - that flew just wide - being the closest either side got to changing the score.

After the game Billinge manager Matt Taylor thought the game could have gone either way saying, “The conditions meant it was never going to be a great game.

“The fact that their goals came from a penalty and a huge deflection while ours came directly from a corner probably sums up the game.

“That said I thought it was a huge improvement from recent weeks and it feels like we are back on track.

“Despite his mistake - that led to their first goal - I thought Richie Allen was excellent as were his midfield partners Dean Curtis and Kyle Ross.

“We’ll train well and also have a friendly game during the week and we should be fine for next Saturday.”

That game is at home against Whaley Bridge Athletic with a 2pm kick-off at Barrows Farm.

All-in-all it was a disappointing Saturday for the Billinge club as their reserve side lost in the Reserve Division Challenge Cup semi-final going down 4-3 on penalties after the game finished 1-1.

The team will be kicking itself as they had numerous chances to sew the game up in regular time.

They fact they had over 20 corners indicates their dominance but all they had to show for it was an excellent goal from Joe Stanley.