St Helens Town made the long trip to Staffordshire to take on league leaders Hanley Town on Saturday and fell to a narrow defeat but will think that they should have returned to Merseyside with at least a share of the spoils after a batting performance.
Town see themselves in a third of the way through an extended road trip which sees them have six consecutive away contests before hosting Ashton Town on Easter Monday.
The pitch had passed an early morning inspection but with the recent wet weather and snowfall the surface was always going to be heavy and in some places boggy but credit must go to Hanley for getting the game on.
The early stages saw little in terms of noteworthy action as both sides who wanted to get the ball down and play football tried to get to grips with the tricky playing surface.
Town played two upfront with George Lomax partnering skipper Andy Gillespie and looked comfortable in possession.
The first real chance of the contest with 28 minutes on the watch a previous attack had been halted at the cost of a corner and this was sent into the box from the right by Ellis Mavers, Lomax rose unmarked at the far post and looked to be opening the scoring but he was unable to steer his effort on target and a real chance went begging.
Town took the lead just four minutes later when a great move saw Todd Blaney link with Mavers and he found Gillespie on the right and his cut back was initially blocked by a Hanley player but the ball broke to Mavers who took a touch before curling a shot into the top left hand corner of the net past the despairing dive of Joe Hemmings in the home goal.
The lead was short-lived and was to last less than two minutes. An attack down the left saw Matt German advance before sending a cross to the far post where it was slotted home by the unmarked Martin Stayner.
As the first period entered its final stages both sides had chances to take the lead, the first fell to the hosts from a corner.
Theo Stair sent the ball into the box from the right and the ball was half cleared being collected by Josh Thorpe who tried his luck from the edge of the box the effort left St Helens stopper Mathew Hodge with no chance but Ste Rigby was well placed to clear the ball off the line.
At the other end Lomax created an opening on the right of the Hanley box and he tried his luck from 20 yards but the well struck effort was held by Hemmings and the sides went in level at the interval.
Hanley came out after the break with renewed vigour and St Helens had to stay solid to keep scores level as they looked to ride this storm out.
A right wing corner for the hosts was headed over by Stanyer and with the hour mark approaching the pressure paid as Hanley took the lead.
Curtis Evans was allowed time and space to cross from the right and this was headed away as far as Stair 15 yards from goal and he drilled an effort into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
St Helens had plenty of possession and in some good areas but a quality final ball was lacking on too many occasions.
Gillespie pinched the ball from a defender and looked to play in striker partner Lomax but the ball held up on a particularly heavy part of the pitch and the ball drop short of him and allowed the hosts the clear.
Hanley were reduced to 10 men with less than ten minutes to play and in the most petulant style. Substitute Oliver Edwards showed dissent after a free kick was awarded to the visitors and as he was being shown the yellow card for this offence he sarcastically clapped at the referees decision and was shown a second yellow and dismissed.
As time ran out Stair had an effort well saved by Hodge in the St Helens goal as the visitors pressed looking to level and gain a share of the spoils but the hosts held firm and claimed all the points to cement their position at the summit of the table.
Going forward if St Helens Town turn in performances like this week in week out they will be a threat to gain a berth in the play-offs come the end of April as they look to regain their Premier Division status.
Town are next in action this Saturday, March 12 when they take the relatively short trip the Select Security Stadium to take on Widnes Hanley Town with a 2pm kick off before taking the long trip to Barrow-in-Furness the following Tuesday 15th March with a 7.45pm kick off.