BILLINGE got their 2020/21 Cheshire League Premier Division off to a flying start as they beat Middlewich Town 2-1.

It was a deserved victory for The Storks as they dominated the game having 19 shots at goal with seven on target compared to The Witches seven and two.

They were, however made to battle all the way and had a Richie Allen brace to thank for the three points.

Billinge were first out the blocks as - in the second minute - Declan Gregson fired a 25-yard free-kick over the bar after Liam Diggle had been fouled.

However, seven minutes later The Storks were ahead: Town's defender Jamie Garner could only head Billinge-debutant Tom Douglas's cross to Allen, who skilfully brought the ball down on his chest and volleyed at goal.

Charles Masters in the Middlewich pulled off a brilliant reflex save but the ball fell back at Allen's feet and the midfielder blasted home from 12 yards.

It was almost two when on 11 minutes a neat corner move saw Douglas shoot narrowly wide from 25 yards.

With the game opening out Middlewich should have been level but the otherwise excellent Harry Short - being watched on the day by Altrincham FC - hit his left-footed shot high and wide from ten yards.

It was a warning that Billinge should have heeded as on 22 minutes a simple through-ball found Short who this time - despite being held back - found the back of the net.

On the half-hour mark a long ball out of defence found Diggle; he turned his man and hit a shot from the edge of the box that for the world seemed to be going in the bottom corner but Masters stuck a foot out to make a very fine save.

In the 33rd minute Billinge's Danny Murphy found his way into the book with a late tackle on Callum Priestley

Five minutes later Douglas went close with a lovely curling shot from the edge of the box before the game exploded when Priestley looking for revenge went through and over the top on Murphy resulting in a brawl between the players.

Priestley saw yellow but it could have easily been red.

The final action of the half saw Roxy Gorton of Middlewich shooting wide from 12 yards.

The Storks started the second period well as Douglas found Gregson only for the wide man to shoot just past the far post.

On 50 minutes Priestley showed the good side of his game as he cut inside Joe Andrews and produced a curling shot that went just over the bar.

Five minutes later the game exploded again as this time Callum Parkinson should have seen red for a horror tackle on Murphy. Referee James Owen played advantage but when the play broke down another melee broke out between the players.

When calm was restored the referees booked Parkinson for the original foul along with Town's Gorton - who to be fair had done wonderfully well to avoid a card until the 56th minute and Billinge's Lewis Jones who was close to the original foul and reacted strongly to it.

On 67 minutes The Storks went ahead.

Andy Dixon won a corner on the left and from the resultant kick both Storks centre-halves went close when firstly Ben Jacobson had a shot well-saved on the line by defender Dean Burgess who then did the same from Zak Riley's shot.

However, the ball was not cleared and Douglas found Gregson out wide who put in a sublime cross for Allen to glide in unmarked to head home at the near post.

There was still time for another minor flare-up that saw Douglas booked for Billinge.

He then redeemed himself with an excellent 20-yard-shot shot that missed by inches while the final action of the game saw Billinge substitute Jason McShane go very close from thirty yards.

The game finished 2-1 to The Storks and manager Wayne Wardle was pleased with the outcome saying: "It's great to get a win as ideally we could have done with two more weeks of pre-season but I'm sure the Middlewich staff will say the same.

"It's also been a very busy week off the pitch having to prepare everything from the pitch to the Covid-19 compliances: I'm just glad toplay some football."

"Credit to the players, as all 16 gave me everything in a very physical game and I feel the result reflected the balance of play.

Next week Billinge are away at Egerton in a 2pm kick-off while the reserves - who drew 2-2 at Daten on Saturday - entertain Styal Reserves - again - in a 2pm kick-off.