MIKE Lawrence stepped up from the third team and became the matchwinning hero in a dramatic 5-4 victory over Horwich Victoria.
Vics were the form team in the Premier League, going on a run of five straight wins since losing to runaway leaders Old Boltonians on November 2.
One of only two games to go ahead in the division – thanks to the 4G pitch at ESSA Academy – goal machine Sam Parkinson put them ahead after 25 minutes.
Little Lever hit back with two quick goals from Ash Williams and John Hobday, and Matty Woods made it 3-1 shortly after half time with a 25-yard free kick. Parkinson halved the arrears with his second on 55 minutes only for Lee Valentine to restore the Mytham Road men’s two-goal lead midway through the second half.
Victoria captain Jordan Coop, who rarely scores with his head, did so twice to pull the scores level with 12 minutes to go.
That set the scene for the dramatic finale when substitute Lawrence met right-back Adam Clark’s long throw with a flick header at the near post which sailed over the Vics keeper into the far corner. “We were short of numbers and called up Mike from the thirds,” said Little Lever captain Andy Bingham, whose side are eighth but with games in hand on most of the teams above them.
“Then he comes off the bench and scores the winner which was fantastic for him and us.”
Victoria remain fourth, having played more games than the teams around them, and joint manager Dave Walker believed his side played a part in their own downfall.
“It was a good game for were a neutral, but we were obviously disappointed,” he said.
“We played some very good football against a good Little Lever team, but couldn’t defend set-pieces and they got two goals from long throws and one from a corner.”
Elsewhere, in BSF Over-35s League, there were only three matches played across the three divisions.
In Division One, Salford Waggon moved into second on goal difference as Barry Massey’s hat-trick helped them to a 3-1 win over Walkden.
Gaz Clarke and Mark Woolford were on target for Radcliffe Old Boys A as they beat Victory 2-1.
In Division Three, Elton Liberals picked up a valuable point from a 4-4 draw with Failsworth Home Guard. Paul O’Keefe, Daz Fitzsimmons, Carl Naisbitt and Chris Summer got on the scoresheet for Elton while Peter Lennon, Ellis Garry and a Nathan Cooke (two) scored for Failsworth in a result that keeps them in joint fourth.