ATHERTON Town continued their defence of the Murray Trophy with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Division One top-four rivals Chapel Town.
The Howe Bridge men, impressive from start to finish, turned in a performance to suggest a cup and promotion double is well within their capabilities.
“Promotion’s been the target all along,” said manager Shaun Lynch. “We want to be back playing Premier League football next season, but we don’t want to let go of the cup either.
“And we’ve finally got a strong enough squad to do it. We’ve got a few players back now and a couple of new signings, which gives me about 25 first-team players to choose from.
“I’d fancy us against anybody now. If we win our games in hand we could go joint top of the table with Elton Vale – and that’s the main thing.”
With under-18s captain Luke Jones impressing on his debut in central midfield, Town, who are fourth in the table nine points behind their Peak District visitors who are in runners-up spot, led 1-0 at half time, courtesy of a stunning 35-yard strike from Tom Shaw.
And they kicked on after the break with goals from Hemsley Mills, Gareth Shaw (two) and Nick Eastham.
“They pulled it back to 3-1, but we bossed the game – and with the best defence in the league I always fancy us when we go in front.”
Premier Division leaders Hindsford suffered a setback in their bid for a third successive title when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to second bottom Rochdale Sacred Heart.
And they needed an equaliser from substitute Jack Valentine three minutes from time to rescue a point after the visitors had snatched the lead five minutes earlier.
But manager Lee Bennett was not too downhearted, describing the result as “a massive point under the circumstances” after Hindsford played the last half hour down to 10 men after skipper Mark Chilton was sent off for a second bookable offence.
“I didn’t go into the game thinking it was an easy three points because every team we play at the moment treats it as a bit of a cup final,” Bennett said.
“We prepared expecting a tough game and that was what we got.
“It looks like a bad result when you look at the respective league positions but being down to 10 men for the last half hour and going a goal behind it was a massive point.
“We just need to start winning games and make sure there are no more slip-ups.”
The result left Hindsford just one point ahead of second-placed Royton Town, who have played three games more but with Stockport Georgians – their main rivals – just one point further behind but with a game in hand.
Leigh Athletic did well to stage their Division One fixture against Beechfield United – one of only two played in the division on Saturday – only to be beaten 2-1.