PICKERING Town took a huge step towards their safety in the NCEL Premier Division after edging fellow strugglers Maltby Main 1-0 at Mill Lane.

Kieran Stares scored what proved to be the winning goal mid-way through the second half, seeing the Pikes move level on points with 16th-placed Bottesford Town.

Maltby remain rooted to the foot of the table, four points below closest rivals Goole.

In truth, a goalless draw would likely have been a fair result in a low-quality game that saw chances prove few and far between.

Tony Hackworth made two changes from the Pikes’ midweek Cup defeat to Boro Rangers, with Edson Prata and James Ward coming into the starting line-up for Wayne Brooksby and Matty Dawes.

It became clear from the start that a solitary goal would decide the game’s outcome, with Pickering’s crosses into the box going begging, whilst Maltby’s wishes for a fast break never really came to fruition.

Dan Chapman produced the first effort of the match with a weak shot into Louis Hood’s arms, before Harrison McGuire saved well from Jordan Lonchar.

The visitors finished the half the stronger, but it was Pickering who had the last word before the interval, heading a free-kick over the bar.

Goalless at the break, the Pikes crucially nudged themselves ahead with 63 minutes on the clock, Stares rising highest to beat Hood’s punch and head home Matty Robinson’s cross.

Things threatened to go from bad to worse for Maltby when substitute Nathan Perks was sin binned with a little over 10 minutes remaining, but Hood produced a fine save with his leg from a Pickering break.

The visitors did come close to an equaliser at the death from a long throw, but they were left ruing the decision to try and take on a defender instead of crossing the ball, as Pickering ensured that a crucial three points remained in Ryedale.