ATHERTON Town and Pennington maintained their promotion charges in Division One.

With three promoted, the local duo are among a group of five who look to have a realistic chance of going up.

Fourth-placed Atherton beat another of that quintet, Irlam Steel, to keep the pressure on their rivals.

Dane Grimes opened the scoring early with a deflected strike and Heath Ainscow settled the nerves with a breakaway goal midway through the second half.

Irlam, who found the home defence in commanding form, had two men sent off for verbally abusing the referee in the last five minutes as frustration got the better of them.

Two second-half goals from Chris Holt saw a below-par second-placed Pennington overcome Wilmslow Albion.

Matty Collier opened the scoring with the pick of the goals when he chipped the keeper midway through the first half before the bottom club replied before half time.

At the other end, Breightmet United also failed to reproduce their recent improved form in a 3-2 defeat at Chapel Town.

The local lads conceded in the first 30 seconds of each half, to leave manager Simon Wilcox perplexed.

Gary McShane made it 1-1 before Stephen Dawson struck a stunning free kick into the top corner to give Breightmet a 2-1 half-time lead.

“They scored straight after half time and again five minutes later and we couldn’t recover,” said Wilcox.

“That was the worst performance by us so far, we were unrecognisable from recent weeks, although the work ethic was top drawer as it always is.”

Chris Hopwood grabbed a late winner as Leigh Athletic continued to pull away from the Premier Division relegation zone with a 3-2 victory at Prestwich Heys.

He also scored Leigh’s first, with their second an equalising own goal 10 minutes from time.