NORTHWICH Vics slipped ever closer towards the Blue Square North on Saturday as Ebbsfleet United grabbed all three points from a scrappy encounter at Stonebridge Road.

The 1-0 defeat came courtesy of James Smith’s 69th-minute header that came direct from John Martin’s corner.

It was the cruellest of blows for Vics who had spurned several chances to keep their paper thin chances of Blue Square Premier survival alive.

Jonny Allen and Lee Elam went close for the visitors while on-loan Kyle Perry, who has now been recalled by Port Vale, saw his volley fly inches wide.

The defeat, witnessed by 1,003 fans, means that Vics had to win their crucial home clash with Woking last night (Tuesday) to stand a remote chance of staying the Conference.

Caretaker manager Andy Preece, who has told club owner Jim Rushe he wants to stay in charge of Vics next season, said the defeat was disappointing.

“We didn’t play very well and I don’t think either side deserved to win the game but saying that, we did have chances to score,” he said.

“Then we have switched off and conceded direct from a set-piece. I was disappointed that we couldn’t take anything from the game.”

Preece said that he, along with assistant Andy Morrison and all the players, will be striving to prolong the club’s Conference status despite the current transfer embargo and player shortage curtailing his efforts.

Preece expected to field a squad of just 14 for last night’s match, see for details, but he revealed that he will hand a dream trial to Mid Cheshire College student midfielder Ross Thallon.

This Saturday, Vics travel York City to take on the relegation-threatened Minstermen and on Easter Monday, Vics, who could already be relegated, host Mansfield Town at the Marston’s Area (3pm).