A HARD-fought contest saw Pilkington beat Ashton Athletic 2-0 – thanks to goals from Adam Gilchrist and Taylor Prescott - to advance to First Round Proper of FA Vase, writes Liam McDermott.

Pilks very nearly opened the scoring in the opening minute – however, having seen Bruno’s powerful strike saved, Callum Laird was unable to capitalise on the follow-up.

The visitors were incentivised to overcome a side that have made a positive start to their league campaign and also to capitalise on their recent downturn in form.

Pilks had experienced defensive stalwart Chris Cottington, who was excellent throughout, to thank for keeping the score level – with him brilliantly denying an almost certain goal.

Just as much was owed to the ever-dependable goalkeeper, Jake Hilton, who executed a string of stunning saves – to leave the opposition wondering just what they had to do to score.

They’d be even further perplexed when the woodwork twice denied them from making a breakthrough.

Jack Smith’s powerful drive across the surface left Hilton rooted to the spot – but the post came to the keeper’s aid.

All in the Pilks camp will have been relieved when, just 10 minutes later, Josh Nicholson’s volley didn’t have the end product that a flowing move deserved – smashing against the crossbar.

For all of Pilks’ possession, Ashton Athletic looked to be the more positive and proactive, when in control of the ball – which begged the question as to whether we’d see an opener, with just minutes of the first half remaining.

Veteran forward Gilchrist would have the answer – and it was an emphatic ‘yes’.

You can ill afford to give a player of his experience and know-how acres of space on the edge of the penalty area, but that’s exactly what the visitors did.

Having weighed up his options and with minimal backlift at his disposal, the frontman produced a rabbit from the hat – with an audacious finish finding the top corner, once again, with the aid of the woodwork.

With that, Pilks’ momentum continued after the break, as they picked up where they’d left off and looked to source any additional goals through Gilchrist, who smartly picked Bruno out – but the midfielder forced a wonderful save out of James Aspinall.

Pilks were once again comfortable in possession and didn’t rush to finish the tie as a contest off – which could have ran the risk of them conceding, despite keeping the visitors’ chances to a minimum.

Ashton Athletic’s solitary significant opportunity of the half came right at the end of normal time, but Callum Mahoney failed to trouble Hilton’s goal – having glanced a header marginally over.

And, in stoppage time, Pilks concluded what was a performance of great professionalism and composure.

When it looked like the frame of the goal would favour the visitors for once, having kept Chris Lomax’s deflected shot at bay, Prescott was on hand to tap home and ensure that Pilks will be playing in the First Round Proper of the FA Vase.