ALSAGER Town boss Greg Clowes blasted the match referee after his side were denied a vital late penalty in their top-ofthe-table clash.
Substitute striker Chris Budrys was hauled down in the area in the last minute of the first-versus-second encounter, but Town's appeals for a spot-kick were waved away.
That left them to settle for a 1-1 draw - their fourth game without a win. Clowes had nothing but praise for his players, but felt robbed by the official's decision.
He said: 'We were let down by the referee. We played really well but he bottled it. It was a blatant penalty and it was disgusting to get a decision like that wrong.
'We had a perfectly good winner ruled out at Cammell Laird, and now this. Those extra points would have meant a lot to us in the race.
'But the players were absolutely excellent on the day and Skelmersdale were second best. The atmosphere generated by almost 400 supporters was tremendous.
'Now we need to get back on a winning run. We have a big test at Maine Road on Saturday because they are one of the form teams in the league. But I look at this team and feel confident.'
Striker Peter Heler terrorised the visitors all day and twice threatened early on. Richard Mitchell fired an overhead kick inches over, before Wayne Brotherton had a shot blocked.
But the leaders hit the bar with a free kick, before taking a 32nd-minute lead through Stuart Rudd's 36th of the season.
But the Bullets equalised four minutes later when Heler powered clear and unleashed an unstoppable effort.
Heler (shoulder) and debutant Carl Robinson (ankle) had to be withdrawn injured as Town went for glory, but the denied penalty was the closet they came. nMeanwhile, Nantwich Town took out their frustrations on Atherton LR as they dismantled them in a 7-0 rout.
The Dabbers were disappointed to go down 2-1 to Skelmersdale at Jackson Avenue in midweek, when they were much the better side but fell behind to early goals from Rudd and Ryan Wallace.
Matt Platt, Matt Blake, Phil Parkinson and Danny Griggs all had opportunities late in the second half, but a 85th minute penalty from Griggs was all they could muster.
However, it was goals galore on Saturday, as Richard Smith (2),
Murray McCulloch, Blake, James Marrow, Griggs and Adam Beesley all plundered goals.
Boss Steve Davis said: 'We were excellent at times against Skelmersdale, and were really un-fortunate. It was a great response from the lads on Saturday. Atherton are having some problems but I can't ask for any more than that.'
Davis is trying to sign Andy Porter, the Port Vale youth coach who has made several emergency appearances for Martin Foyle's men this season.
Nantwich face 12 games in April, and Davis wants to boost his ranks. The 37-year-old midfielder is willing to sign but is waiting for clearance from Vale.
Davis explained: 'Vale assistant manager Mark Grew has had a back operation and Andy has to fulfil a lot
of his duties. Vale are not sure they can risk Andy getting injured.
'We'll have to wait and see. I would like to sign him because he's a good, experienced player and still very fit. We have a lot of games coming up and we'd have to be very lucky to get through them with the size of the squad we've got.'
Nantwich Reserves were also in fine form, matching their first team counterparts by smashing seven past Darwen.
Neil O'Brian put them one up, but it was all-square when keeper Danny Reade was chipped from the halfway line. Scott Beesley made it 2-1 before the break, and goals from O'Brian, Rob Adlington (2) and Ash Lawton (2) sealed the rout.
Boss Alan Cooper said: 'It was a good overall team performance. As we start the final run-in we will need to use the squad more and more.' nThe second leg of Nantwich's FA Vase semi-final clash with Cammell Laird at Jackson Avenue has been switched to Sunday, April 9 (3pm).
Malbank Coaches will provide official transport for Dabbers supporters to the away leg on Saturday April 1. For details call 01270 628848.
Nantwich had an early taste of their big-match opposition when they hosted Cammell Laird in a league match as the Chronicle went to press last night.