AS far as tests go in this closely run play-off race Lancaster City passed a pretty stern one on Tuesday night to edge passed Salford City.
After surviving a tempestuous first half the Dolly Blues were the quicker off the blocks after the break to edge ahead through Simon Wills.
It was not until the 74th that their nerves were truly calmed when on-loan Kendal Town striker Tom Kilifin finished with aplomb to take his side over the line.
The match was fast paced and competitive, if a little stilted by a fussy referee; the first half was more Grand Prix than sprint in its stop-start fashion.
The home side dominated and looked lively up top with former Chorley striker Steve Burke proving a handful. They came closest to opening the scoring when Josh Bardsley hit the side-netting, appearing late to meet a free-kick.
For the Dolly Blues, man-of-the-match Wills came closest – a header not at all close – after meeting a Max Rothwell cross, with more game time and confidence perhaps Rothwell would have taken on the chance for himself after Lee Dodgson played him into the box.
Whatever the City players heard from manager Tony Hesketh at the break did just the trick; they had an extra fillip in their step, were first to every ball and looked far sharper in the pass.
It took just five second half minutes for them to break the deadlock, and Alex Kenyon can claim an unlikely assist after his wild volley skewed away heading for a throw-in but landed at the feet of Wills.
He took a steadying touch before finishing well with the outside of his right boot.
Wills put in an excellent shift at right midfield, the only slight criticism being that he sometimes held the ball too long, he surprised most by winning a lot of high balls and showed a fleet foot and flash of skill when needed.
Kilifin’s winner and his second goal in two games was delightfully taken, in a similar position to Wills’ earlier he chose to flight his finish passed the ‘keeper.
The win is the third on the bounce for the Dolly Blues and their fourth win in five which sees them nip up a place into the comfort of the play-offs’ bosom in fourth. The game was mildly tarnished by some silliness on the terraces that the Dolly Blues can certainly do without – a few missed Kilifin’s pretty finish to marvel at that ugliness – and whether further action will be taken remains to be seen.
What we do know is that City have one or two players hitting good form at this crucial time and with just six games to go the finishing line is in sight.
The next hurdle is Saturday’s trip to Prescot Cables before a mouth-watering clash at Giant Axe against Witton Albion that no-one will want to call a play-off semi-final rehearsal.
Salford City: Jackson, Bardsley (Abadaki 61), Mortimer, Hockenhull, Tierney, Knight, Ogoo, Curley, Burke (Salmon 67), Giggs, Metcalfe
Subs not used: Baguley, Monaghan, Green
Lancaster City: Fearon 7, Henry 7, Elderton 6, Gregson 7, Marshall 7, Kenyon 8, Wills 8, Dodgson 6, Kilifin 7 (Wood 85), Meaney 6 (Bunney 45) Rothwell 7 (Clark 76)
Sub not used: Hall
Referee: David Croft
Starman: Simon Wills – An excellent display, aggression, energy and a lovely goal.