Holwell Sports made a winning start to 2017 as they edged a scrappy match at much-changed basement side Ellistown on Bank Holiday Monday.
The hosts, who are without a league win this season, fielded five debutants for the visit of John Webster’s side.
But a second-half goal and assist from Laithan Hammond proved the difference as Holwell eased to a 2-0 victory at Terrace Road.
Webster was forced into customary changes with captain Aaron Ridout dropping to the bench through illness, with Ian Bitmead takign his place alongside Rob Woodcock in central defence.
David Hazeldine, Graham Wells and Andre Fontoura also missed the trip.
Despite a playing surface made difficult by heavy rain and overnight frost, both sides were committed to attack with Tom Harris having a couple of good chances.
The movement and strength of Hammond caused problems for the home defence, forcing a save from the keeper and putting another effort over the top.
Ellistown went closest to breaking the deadlock and Mark Savage twice had the ball in the net, only for both to be ruled out for offside.
While the first offside was an easy call, the second had Holwell breathing a sigh of relief as a marginal decision went in their favour.
But a first half of few clear-cut chances ended goalless.
The visitors looked more composed in possession after a half-time switch in formation, and they forced a series of corners thanks to high pressing.
And Holwell went ahead from the fourth corner, as Liam Chapman’s inswinging delivery was flicked on to the back post where Hammond headed in on the hour.
Space began to open up for Holwell as Ellistown were forced to chance their arm to get back into the match, and Kieran Foster blasted a decent chance over the bar.
And the fates were clearly on the visitors’ side when they doubled their lead after 68 minutes.
The substitutes were warming up as Webster looked to replace Hammond who was showing signs of a calf problem.
But before the switch could be made, Hammond broke quickly down the left and beat two defenders before drawing the keeper and squaring the ball for Foster to tap in.
Shaun Smith duly replaced Hammond to make his Holwell debut, and the visitors thought they had well and truly killed off the game with 10 minutes remaining.
Hitting Ellistown with a quick break, Mark Tinsley beat the keeper with a 30-yard effort. But with the defender hacking the ball clear as he hit the back of the net, the linesman, who was behind play, was unable to confirm whether the shot had crossed the line.
Yet Holwell saw out the game in comfort to chalk up their third win in their last five league outings which keeps them in 15th.
Assistant manager Andy Hill said: “Overall we were really pleased with the three points considering we hadn’t played since December 17.
“With the new players Ellistown have brought in, I think they will soon start picking up a few results.
“It was a typical post-Christmas game, but hopefully the result will put us in good stead for Saturday.”
Sports return to home turf on Saturday when they welcome Graham St Prims to Welby Road. Kick-off is 3pm.
Holwell: J. Witham, B. Smith, I, Bitmead, R. Woodcock, L. Chapman, T. Harris, C. Hibbitt, M. Stevenson, K. Foster (J. Williams 75), M. Tinsley, L. Hammond (S. Smith 70). Unused subs: A. Ridout, C. Cropper.