CLEE Hill United boss Wayne Whitbread believes his side’s battling victory over Ledbury Town proves they have the stomach to reel in leaders Wellington in the race for the Herefordshire Premier title.

Second-placed United moved to within eight points of the summit – with three games in hand on Wellington – by coming from behind to beat Ledbury 3-1 with a Josh Carpenter hat-trick.

Having won 13 of their 16 league games this season – most of them comfortably – Whitbread was delighted to see his side were able to respond well in the face of uncommon adversity.

Whitbread said: “The players’ response to going 1-0 down was very pleasing because we could easily have gone into our shell.

“But almost straight from the kick-off we went and won a penalty and that shows me they are up for the battle.

“They showed their bottle and upped the pace and tempo. I am not surprised because I have a terrific bunch of lads here.”

Carpenter’s treble took his season’s tally to 38 goals in 18 games and Whitbread added: “He is one fire – I think that is 15 goals in his last five games now. His contribution has been immense.

“But there’s a lot of work that goes on around him, it’s definitely a team effort – we’ve scored 85 this season and he’s got 38 so that’s another 40-odd spread around the team.”

Ledbury had the best chance of a goalless first half when their centre-forward raced clear but Clee keeper Scott Jordan made a fantastic save to tip his shot around the post.

The visitors went ahead midway through the second half but United levelled almost immediately as Carpenter was fouled in the box and picked himself up to tuck home the penalty.

Carpenter made it 2-1 within five minutes in somewhat fortunate fashion as an intended cross floated in – and Hill needed more good luck in a breathless finale.

Having spurned chances to seal the win – Carpenter missing a one-on-one and Craig Breakwell unluckily hitting the bar – United survived a late scare.

With a Ledbury player seeming certain to score, defender Steve Eddies-Davies got a vital touch on his effort to deflect it on to the bar – and Carpenter raced up the other end to make it 3-1.

Whitbread added: “It was a very difficult game. Ledbury are a very good young side. We shaded possession in the first half but we were not really at our clinical best.”

Hill are without a game this weekend before beginning a six-game run-in at home to second-bottom Kington Town on February 23.

Elsewhere, Tenbury United, Tenbury Town, Ludlow Town Colts and Orleton were all without games due to either scheduling or the weather.

In Division Two, Orleton Reserves lost 4-2 at home to Ross Juniors despite a Corey Whitticase brace and boss Dane Pearce blamed rustiness after long spells without a match recently.

He said: “We have only played one game since mid-December. We didn’t play particularly well but it’s quite difficult when you haven’t had a game for so long.”