A DEPLETED Malvern Vale Firsts squad edged past hosts Andoversford Reserves 2-1 to go four points clear at the top of Cheltenham League Division Three.

A challenging Temple Fields surface and strong winds made life difficult at fourth-placed Andoversford.

Kristian Bottrell returned after re-signing following a two-year absence.

Vale started brightly but were put under pressure at times by league top scorer Jamie Ellison who looked to run at centre-backs Jamie Jones and Alen Damadzic.

Despite good build-up play with Bottrell and Anthony Cakebread causing problems down the wing, Vale were limited to long-range efforts at keeper Richard Cerrone.

Matt Strangwood broke into the box to fire straight at Cerrone and he then had an effort disallowed for handball in the build-up.

Tom Stone blocked an effort on the line to save Vale but keeper Marcin Celmer was kept relatively quiet.

Two minutes after the break with the defence believing Strangwood to be offside Mario Vieira ran onto a through-ball and slotted home from a tight angle.

Vale's pressure and fitness saw them take control and Vieira appeared to be body checked in the box before Andre Rodrigues fired wide.

With five minutes left first-team debutant Toby Ireland unselfishly squared to Strangwood who fired home from inside the six-yard box to secure the win.

In the last minute Andoversford's skilful Rick Houghton fired a half-volley in off the bottom of the bar from distance for a consolation.

Vale visit bottom side Southside Star Reserves on Saturday.

Welland Reserves thrashed Gala Wilton Thirds 6-2 with a hat-trick for Simon Haywood.

Charlie Tippell, Harry Phillips and Jonathan Price also scored.

Hosts Malvern Cave saw off Woodmancote United 3-2 in Division Four thanks to David Jones, Matthew Mcintosh and Ashley Prosser.