THIS was a desperate game played by desperate teams fighting to avoid dropping into the relegation zone.
Southport came to Northwich trailing by one point in the league, and maintained the status quo by securing a last-gasp draw against a panicky Northwich team who led throughout but failed to turn their superiority into points.
Northwich looked the better outfit from the off but lacked the conviction to turn the screw and a general lack of flair ensured a dour first quarter. The stalemate was broken when, eventually, the ball travelled along the Northwich back line and the nimble Andy Allen dived over in the left-hand corner. Gallimore failed with the difficult conversion - and this proved to be the first of several unsuccessful attempts to slot the ball between the uprights.
He missed two easier penalty attempts before a soft offside offence gave the visitors a gift of a penalty. It was one of the few occasions that Southport ventured close to the Northwich line and a more determined and robust home team would have ensured the game was beyond reach by the halfway stage, but as it was the teams changed ends at 5-3 and Southport had everything to play for.
The second half looked more promising for Northwich and captain Rob Heath made some blockbusting runs, from one of which the ball was handed to right winger Stuart Mills who forced his way over in the corner with only inches to spare. Gallimore failed again but Southport would surely crumble under the Northwich cosh, wouldn't they?
With 20 minutes to go the home team should have gone for the jugular, raised their game and finished off a very average team. They came close but if anything, either through fatigue or complacency, Northwich were unable to put the match beyond doubt.
It seemed their prayers were answered when one of Southport's better forwards was sin-binned. All Northwich had to do was play percentage rugby and play out the remainder of the game.
However, when Jonathan Simpson was yellow carded for killing the ball, a slick break in the centre saw Southport score under the posts and with the conversion level the score. With three minutes to go Northwich played down field and secured a 35m penalty attempt. Gallimore hadn't the confidence to attempt it so up stepped Ricky Evans, but he put it well wide to leave Northwich continuing their dogfight for another week at least.
The 2nd XV lost 24-13 to Helsby, scoring a try from Andy Stanley and two penalties and a conversion from Karl Senior.
The 3rd XV lost 42-12 to Old Bedians. They scored tries from Tony Heaton and Mike Lowe and Brett Stanley kicked a conversion. This Saturday Northwich's 1st XV visit Leigh in a rearranged league fixture and could solve all their problems with a win. The 2nds are away at Newton-le-Willows and the 3rds entertain Carrington.