AS well as difficult opponents, Old Boltonians were battling the elements on Saturday, but got the victory they wanted to put some daylight between themselves and the chasing pack in the Lancashire Amateur League Premier Division.

Steve Eccleshare’s side had suffered a surprise defeat to neighbours Little Lever the previous Saturday, and the manager was determined to give his players a chance to make amends last weekend.

Old Bolts switched their fixture against Old Mancunians to Ladybridge High’s artificial surface, ensuring they could get the game on while most of the other teams around them were forced to postpone matches.

The move paid handsome dividends as Old Bolts ran out 2-1 winners to move four points clear of nearest challengers Failsworth Dynamos at the halfway mark of the season.

And their performance also drew praise from Eccleshare, who opted to draw a line under their 5-2 reverse in the previous week’s derby defeat.

“That was just one of those days where you have to write the game off and move on,” he said. “It was a real mishap but we recovered well and on Saturday we were very good against a strong Old Mancs team.

“I know a lot of their lads, I know they play good football and it was difficult for us but we came through and won.

“After the Little Lever defeat I wanted us to go out and end the year on a high. We knew a lot of games with other teams would be called off so we told them win and they’ll give themselves some breathing space.

“I know some teams have got a lot of games in hand but we’re putting pressure on them – and if they go out and put a good run together and overtake us then we’ll have to put our hands up and say ‘well done’.”

Old Bolts played into a strong wind in the first half and the plan had been to get to the break on level terms.

It turned out to be an even better opening period for them, as Joe Johnson scored to put them a goal up when they turned around.

“Joe just put his head down, charged into the box and got a good goal,” added Eccleshare.

“It was, for us, a case of trying to keep a clean sheet in the first half because it was a howling gale in our faces all through the first half, so to get to half time with that goal was a real bonus.

“We were more at ease after half time, even though we knew they’d come at us.

“And our captain Warby [Dave Warburton] made it 2-0 from a corner.

“He took the corner and the wind was so strong it really took hold of it and swerved it directly in.

“We have a very hard-working team so we knew as it went on, on a big pitch, the legs would be tiring and we could see the feet were coming off the gas a bit, so we made a few changes and, even though Old Mancs got it back to 2-1 we were able to see the game out.

“We were really happy with them after the Little Lever game because it was two good teams playing good football and trying to pass the ball about.

“We’ll finish the year at the top which is great for us, but there are lots of good teams so we’ll have to be ready for more in the new year.

“We have a friendly over the break against Horwich St Mary’s Victoria to keep us fighting fit because we don’t want to be starting 2020 slowly.

“Last year was all about us reforming and reshaping the team, but now I can sense that we’re ready to change gear and go again.

“Knockbacks like the Little Lever game urge us on and bond us so things are starting to get exciting and we’re going to be ready to go again next year.”

While the league takes its winter break, Eccleshare has one more competitive assignment before the turn of the year – leading the LAL’s inter-league side in Saturday’s match against the best of the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL. The match will be staged at Hyde United’s Ewen Fields ground, with a newly-laid artificial surface.

Kick off on Saturday is 2pm.

Elsewhere, Little Lever backed up the previous week’s win against Old Bolts by beating Prestwich 2-0, man-of-the-match Ryan Talbot netting both goals for Lever, who end 2019 in 11th place in the Premier Division.

Horwich RMI also end the year with a victory, as their youthful side – with seven players under the age of 20 – returned home from Rossendale with three points from a 4-2 win.

In the Manchester League Division One there was a 3-0 defeat for Atherton Town in their match at Altrincham Hale, but Bolton United were 4-1 winners in their Division Two fixture at home to FC Unsworth.

That result means Sal Docky’s side will spend Christmas in top spot.