THIS had all the ingredients of a well-contested cup tie, but Warrington Rylands 1906 ensured it was anything but.

Emphatically beating the only side to finish above them in a coronavirus-curtailed 2019-20 season on their home turf - quite a way to state your intentions.

Territorially, things were relatively even, but the home side had no answer to Rylands' counter-attacking pace and clinical finishing.

"The pre-season we’ve had has been little bit up and down in terms of performances," manager Dave McNabb reflected.

"We’ve shown glimpses of the complete display we put in tonight, but we’ve been poor in spells.

"Before the game, we said it was probably the best and worst draw we could have had.

"Northwich were by far the best side in our division last season – they were going to win the league deservedly and we were a bit behind them.

"We’ve strengthened a little bit and even though the scoreline doesn’t suggest it, the game could have gone either way.

"We’ve been clinical early on – we took our chances.

"They were chasing the game which gave us more opportunities to hit them on the counter, where we were clinical again."

Ste Milne will grab the headlines with a hat-trick, but Kane Drummond was at the heart of everything and deserved his goal.

Andy Scarisbrick, too, was in the right place at the right time for a double as Dave McNabb's side booked a preliminary round date with higher-ranked Clitheroe at Gorsey Lane on September 12.

Milne's first two goals - a rebound crashed home after Drummond's shot was spilled into his path followed by a cut inside and finish from an excellent Warren Gerrard pass - sucked the life out of the shellshocked hosts.

They had been aggrieved when Blues full-back Michael Simpson was perhaps fortunate not to see red early on for a tackle on Sam Hare with the score at 0-0, but 1874 let it affect them more than it should have.

Even when Milne was denied his hat-trick - albeit temporarily - from the penalty spot after Drummond had been brought down, Scarisbrick was able to tuck in the rebound.

That three-goal cushion to hold onto was crucial in allowing them to pick their moments to unleash their rapier-like counters and demonstrate the fitness and cohesion gained from a slightly longer pre-season

"The work rate and the application was second to none," McNabb said.

"We started up our pre-season early but we were relaxed about it – inviting lads to come in and do a bit of ball work if they wanted.

"In fairness, we had 20 lads at most sessions so it shows the determination is there.

"It helps when you have something to hold onto, but the lads applied themselves brilliantly."

While the hosts were improved after the break, the relentless pressing of Scarisbrick, Charlie Doyle and Sam Sheen in midfield stifled them while Milne, Drummond and Paul Shanley harried their defenders into submission.

Once Drummond had crashed home Milne's cut-back, any hope of a comeback was nipped firmly in the bud.

Following of a Taylor Kennerley consolation for the hosts, Scarisbrick reasserted the dominance before Drummond was once again brought down in the area, giving Milne another stab at the matchball.

Home stopper Tony Agayhere once again got a firm hand to the spot kick, but this time could not keep it out of the net.

Rivals be warned - this side looks like it means business.