ATHERTON Town can look forward to playing Premier Division football next season after effectively clinching promotion with a 4-2 win at Heywood St James.
The win took the Howe Bridge side to the top of the Division One table, one point above long-time leaders Chapel Town having played one game more.
Manager Shaun Lynch still has his sights on the title but is delighted to at least be returning to top-flight football having all-but claimed one of the three promotion places.
Mathematically, they could still be caught by Beechfield United but Lynch said: “That’s won us promotion, and deservedly so.
“We’ve had a good run since Christmas, winning 11, drawing one and losing just the one, which is championship-winning form.
“We’re still chasing the title, but at least we can now look forward to being back in the Premier Division.
“Beechfield can still get the same points as us, but our goal difference is better than theirs and they have to play Chapel Town twice.”
Town, holders of the Murray Trophy in which they play Elton Vale in the final on May 2, had to come from behind on Saturday when they conceded a goal after just two minutes.
But they went on to secure victory in emphatic fashion, Hemsley Mills equalising with the first of two goals before Elliott Waugh put them in front with a powerful shot that ripped the net off the goal frame.
Waugh scored a second to put Town 3-1 up at half time and the match was over as a contest when Mills scored his second after the break.
Lynch’s side, who take on Turton tomorrow in the second round of the Bolton Hospital Cup, should have won more convincingly but Brian Heapey missed a penalty before the Saints pulled a goal back 10 minutes from time.
Mid-table Breightmet United led twice at Leigh Athletic before losing 4-3, Jack Kenny scoring a hat-trick for the home side.
Kyle Bailey put the Moss Park men in front on 20 minutes – a lead wiped out when Kenny scored twice before half time, both good finishes after he chased balls over the Breightmet defence.
The visitors were aggrieved to be denied a penalty that could have given them a 2-1 lead but they came out strongly in the second half and took a 3-2 lead with goals from impressive midfielder Dean Bancks and his brother, centre-back Carl.
Kenny completed his hat-trick to level the scores before Elliott Patrick – one two late Latics substitutes – hammered home the winner on the volley.
Defending Premier League champions Hindsford moved level on points with leaders Royton Towm with a goalless draw at home to third-placed Dukinfield Town, but were frustrated not to have taken all three points.
With fourth-placed Stockport Georgians and fifth-placed Prestwich Heys both having games in hand – four and five, respectively – they needed to win to boost their prospects of a third successive title.