KNUTSFORD return to league action at the weekend after bowing out of the JB Parker Premier Division Challenge Cup at the first hurdle.

Reds, who head to Daten on Saturday, kick-off 3pm, crashed 4-1 at FC St Helens, a side who had beaten Knutsford 2-1 at Manchester Road in the Cheshire Football League Premier Division a week prior.

Saints took the honours through being stronger, more aggressive and harder working on the day against a Knutsford side showing six changes due to player absences but nevertheless on top of the action for long periods and enjoying more of the possession, creating many half chances.

Some fluency was missing though as St Helens went on to achieve a scoreline that was flattering, their final goal coming nine minutes from time to put the game to bed.

Knutsford heads seemed to drop when the third goal was conceded in the 55th minute from a deflected shot.

St Helens’ game plan, like the previous week, was to defend in numbers and hit long balls through the middle and to wide areas in a bid to capitalise on spaces behind Knutsford’s back four.

They went ahead from one such play.

A shout of offside from the ball down the middle came to nothing and Reds goalkeeper Callum Spencer raced off his line to try and avert the danger but he failed to clear, leaving Gillespie with an open goal to tap home in the 33rd minute.

Knutsford were not behind for long though.

They hit back two minutes later with a clever ball into the box for the oncoming Mike Cartner, who was lively up front, to slot home.

Spencer hesitated to come off his line to clear another through ball and ended up fouling Will Meredith, resulting in a booking and a penalty.

The Reds shotstopper made amends though by saving the spot kick low to his right side.

There was nothing he could do about the hosts’ second goal though.

From out of nowhere, Jack Ball, 30 yards out, hit a ‘worldy’ into the far-left corner of Spencer’s goal in the 40th minute, handing St Helens a lead that they would never lose.

Cartner was unlucky when his shot flew off the crossbar early in the second half but again St Helens were more aggressive all over the pitch, winning all headers and second-ball opportunities.

Bradley Warren hit a sweet 70 yarder with the outside of his foot to Shane Davies who became free on goal but he stumbled and allowed St Helens to clear and with that Knutsford’s best chance of an equaliser was gone.