Knaresborough Town made a return to winning ways, and in some style, beating Brigg Town 4-0 away from home to open up a nine-point lead at the top of NCEL Division One.
Last weekend’s draw with Winterton Rangers allowed second-placed Eccleshill United to trim the gap to six points and re-ignited the title race.
However, Boro’s 24th victory in 31 league outings combined with a defeat for their nearest rivals leaves Paul Stansfield’s side in a posiiton of real strength at the summit heading into the business end of the season.
Saturday’s victory was comfortable in the end, but only because of four second-half strikes following a nervous, error-strewn display in the opening period.
Brigg had the first opportunity of the day when Joe Moloney brought a save from Boro stopper Jack Rushworth, before visiting striker Steve Bromley headed over a Rob Youhill centre.
Jonny Nicholls saw an effort deflected wide for the hosts, while at the other end Brad Walker’s long-range shot was saved and a second effort went narrowly wide after another Youhill cross.
The first 30 minutes saw a catalogue of errors across the park and the remainder of the half followed a similar pattern with Dan Thirkell’s free-kick flying well over the bar, Ben Cohen missing from close range and Bromley’s good shot on the turn drawing a save from Paddy Shaw.
Rushworth then made a fine stop to deny Brigg’s Jake Crossland, who also hit a strike wide of the far post.
Whatever Boro boss Stansfield said to his charges at half-time seemed to work to a treat as Thirkell volleyed home a Youhill corner from the left wing as early as the third minute of the second period.
And the effect on the away side having gone ahead was almost instantaneous as passing soon improved, fewer tackles were lost and Knaresborough’s dominance saw Brigg fade.
Myles Lawman did have one effort wide for the home team, but soon afterwards Gregg Anderson saw a header saved from another Youhill corner and Cohen then shot narrowly wide as the league leaders began to turn the screw.
Walker then ran well into the left corner before transferring to Cohen who crossed for Bromley to head into the net for 2-0 in the 68th minute.
Walker had a shot saved before substitutes Paul Atkinson and Joel Freeston combined, only for the latter to see his strike deflected behind.
In the 89th minute, gloveman Shaw dallied with a clearance outside his area and was robbed by Walker who was able to dribble the ball into empty goal with no defenders in close proximity.
Two minutes later, Boro stretched their advantage to four when Thirkell hit his second following a free-kick on the right, but a hat-trick was not forthcoming as Shaw saved well as the defender found another opening.
A late Freeston shot was also saved as the final seconds saw further chances come and go, but the visitors had to settle for the tally of four, the same total as they managed in their previous three games against Brigg.