BOLTON duo Old Bolts and Castle Hill both won 3-1 to maintain a big points gap between them and the rest of the Premier Division.
Julian Stevens’ Bolts, who are looking stronger title favourites by the week, dispatched bottom club Hesketh Casuals 3-1 with a professional performance.
Rob Rostron’s Castle did likewise at lowly Old Blackburnians, but continue to look over their shoulder due to having played more games than the chasing pack.
Old Bolts never looked like dropping points on Saturday, even after Hesketh – who only had 11 men – pulled it back to 2-1 on 80 minutes.
On another day, Matt McClellan could have had a double hat-trick. As it was he had to settle for an assist in dummying Nick Holt’s cross for Tom Whittaker to break the deadlock after 25 minutes.
Paul Wheatcroft prodded home the second from close range 10 minutes later after Darren Dalton’s shot had been parried by the visiting keeper. Dalton completed the scoring on 85 minutes after slotting home a Rob Taylor centre.
“It was nothing spectacular, but we were always in control and it was a job well done,” said Stevens.
Castle Hill are seven points behind Old Bolts having played two games more, and five ahead of third-placed Failsworth Dynamos having played four more.
“It’s tight but we’re still hanging on to that second spot,” said Rostron. “We’ve just got to keep winning our games and see where we finish.
“Second would be great, but we finished third bottom last season so finishing third or fourth this time will be a good reward for our rebuilding job and we can go on and continue to build for next season.”
The Tonge Moor men, who won the title two years ago then lost their whole team en bloc, went ahead on Saturday when Lee Smith fired through the keeper’s legs after good work on the break from Saul Rostron.
Then Carl Henry scored two carbon copy goals in between an Old Blacks reply, getting his head on to shots from Neil Holmes and Jason Perry to change the direction of the ball.
“We were totally in control,” said Rostron. “Their keeper was incredible, without him it would have been seven or eight easy.”
Little Lever, who are two places down in fourth, dropped points at Bury GSOB but almost pulled off the comeback of the season.
They were 4-0 down well into the second half before pulling it back to 4-3 with goals from Scott Bingham, Lee Valentine and Ash Williams.
Howe Bridge Mills edged the clash with fellow mid-table Horwich Victoria 2-1.
Without seven first-team players unavailable due to a stag party, Howe Bridge took the lead through a Dominic Shinks penalty after Rick Trew had been brought down on 20 minutes.
Sean Farrimond made it 2-0 on 55 minutes with a rasping drive from 35 yards.
Horwich never gave up, and in an incident-packed injury time Connor Hicklin headed in a consolation in a goalmouth melee and they had Chris Ashton and Ross Crompton sent off for second yellow cards.