JOE Bates once more held his nerve from the spot as Malvern Town extended their lead at the top of the Hellenic League Premier table to five points after beating title rivals Cribbs 2-1

Just as he did against Worcester Raiders in December, Bates came off the bench to score the winning penalty with under 20 minutes to go.

Harry Clark had put Malvern ahead inside ten minutes but Aysa Corrick equalised after the break to bring second-placed Cribbs level.

The impressive Clark was heavily involved in the winner as it was his skill in the box that saw him win the penalty, which Bates converted coolly to seal the vital three points for The Hillsiders.

It was a blistering start to the game and Cribbs should have taken the lead inside 90 seconds but striker Ben Bament dragged his shot from eight yards against the post, with the ball bouncing back into the hands of a relieved Keiron Blackburn.

Malvern had a glorious chance of their own at the other end to open the scoring when Matt Turner was found at the back post, but his header dropped just wide.

The opener came after eight minutes in rather chaotic fashion as a deflected free-kick in the Cribbs half looped up in the air and winger Clark flicked the ball over the line despite the best effort of keeper Rob Brown.

It was a tense game with so much on the line and tempers threatened to boil over on 20 minutes as a high boot from Jack Horrell sparked a fracas amongst the players, with Cribbs' manager Richard Luffman running onto the pitch demanding a red card.

The rest of the half was spent between the two boxes and at half-time, Malvern held a slender lead.

That lead did only last ten minutes into the second-half as a goalmouth scramble eventually saw Corrick force the ball over the line, an equaliser enjoyed perhaps slightly too much by Cribbs' boss Luffman, who ran up and down the touchline in front of the Malvern fans.

He should have been celebrating again just a minute later as Bament went one-on-one after Adam Sauntson's mistake on half-way but Blackburn produced an excellent save to keep the scores level.

The decisive moment then came on the 70th minute when Clark went around the defender and was fouled in the box, with the referee pointing to the spot.

Substitute Bates had only been on the pitch a number of minutes but he stepped up to send Brown the wrong way and put Malvern back ahead.

The thick fog threatened to disrupt the game as the time wore on but Malvern would not be denied and despite having played three games more than Cribbs, they not have a five point lead at the top of the table.