ST HELENS Town came within a whisker of securing a point at play-off chasing Sandbach United on Saturday.

The hosts led 1-0 from the 11th minute in a scrappy Hallmark Security League One affair but Town thought they had bagged an equaliser at Hind Heath Road at the death.

Injury-time drama unfolded as Alex Ashby’s 25-yard free kick almost caught out the home stopper Ryan Moss, who took the ball high under the crossbar before stumbling backwards.

It led to claims from Town that the ball had been carried well over the line.

The referee, who wasn’t helped by his assistant who had taken up a poor position, waved away the claims and shortly afterwards brought the game to an end.

Town, who slipped to third from bottom, had gone south looking for a much needed three points against a side they had defeated 3-2 at Ruskin Drive shortly before Christmas.

The matchwinner on that occasion, Liam Diggle, was absent though.

His one-game suspension meant Ben Bolton making his first start since early November following injury.

Town soon found their rhythm as the game opened at a frantic pace.

Andy Presho’s through ball set Shaun Brady in on goal but his right-foot drive was saved well by Moss.

The ball broke outside the six-yard box and as Town’s Matty Smith looked to force it home he was tumbled to the ground but the referee waved play on for the first of a number of contentious decisions which littered the 90 minutes.

The only goal of the game then came from a floated free kick which found Sandbach defender Matthew Pearson unmarked and he headed past Kieran Yong in the Town goal.

It was a catalyst for the home side to take control of the contest and Town were in a game of attack versus defence for the next half hour.

While there was little goal-mouth action the constant Sandbach pressure stifled any opportunities at the other end until two minutes before the break when another route-one pass from Tom Grimshaw found Bolton but his early strike went wide of the Sandbach goal.

The second half was a much more even affair but again lacked real quality as well as any clear goal chances, with the referee’s whistle a constant interruption throughout.

Both sides picked up three second-half cautions with Town also seeing substitute Paul Cliff dismissed following a clash with Pearson in stoppage time.

Town travel to play-off hopefuls AFC Blackpool on Saturday, 3pm, and will be back at Ruskin Drive when they entertain bottom club Nelson on January 27.