PICKERING Town’s NCEL Premier Division woes continued with a 1-0 defeat to Hallam at Mill Lane.

That, coupled with results elsewhere, saw the Pikes drop to 19th position after a woeful March that has seen them pick up just one point from their four matches so far.

But after a tight and scrappy affair, Luca Defalco’s 78th minute strike proved to be the difference between the sides in Ryedale.

Keen for a response from a midweek 4-0 hammering by high-flying Garforth, manager Tony Hackworth handed a debut to young goalkeeper Felix Elliott, who arrived at the club on loan from Championship side Middlesbrough.

But both teams struggled to find their feet in the opening stages on Non League Day, making a slow start to proceedings.

Pickering saw the first opportunity come their way after Nathan Dyer broke through the offside trap with a quarter of an hour played, but Hugo Warhurst was quick off his line to thwart the danger.

At the other end, appeals for a Hallam penalty were waved away less than a minute later after Lewis Macaskill’s drive into the box.

The Pikes’ new shot-stopper was called into action for the first time to deny Jack Brownell with 22 minutes played, before Omar Sanyang missed a golden opportunity to put his side in front, miscuing Dyer’s teasing cross that instead flashed across the face of goal.

Neither side were able to carve out anything meaningful in front of goal until three minutes into the second half, but Basile Zottos could not keep his header below the crossbar.

A triple substitution brought with it an added energy for the visitors, with Scott Ruthven’s effort falling just wide of the post with just under 20 minutes remaining.

Hallam’s pressure eventually paid off eight minutes later, Defalco breaking the deadlock after connecting with Brownell’s far-post cross to slot home a rare shot on target.

Pickering looked for an immediate response, but could only watch on as a speculative effort flew well wide of Warhurst’s goal.

Both Defalco and Sam Eckhardt looked to widen the victory for Hallam, but they were both denied by Elliott in the dying stages.

A fourth consecutive defeat for Pickering, who will hope to close out the month on a high when they travel to Handsworth on Saturday (3pm).