Knaresborough Town demolished title rivals Grimsby Borough in Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown at Manse Lane.
Paul Stansfield’s men began the day in second place in NCEL Division One, their visitors having edged ahead of them in the table on goal difference by virtue of having played two more games.
Yet there is however now clear daylight between the sides after ruthless Boro struck five unanswered goals in an eventful encounter, delivering a real statement of intent in the process.
Pre-game, boss Stansfield had described the fixture as the club’s “biggest of the season” and spoken of the importance of attracting a big crowd and a strong backing for his players.
Knaresborough supporters delivered, with a total of 242 turning out – their largest home league crowd of the season by some distance – and the 11 men out on the pitch wasted no time in repaying them.
A mere 24 seconds had elapsed when Brad Walker cut in from the left and looped a shot over Grimsby goalkeeper Scott Drury and into the far corner of the net.
Steve Bromley could have added to the score two minutes later when he broke clear only to see Drury push his shot wide, but from the resulting corner kick the home lead was indeed doubled.
Rob Youhill delivered an inviting ball and Dan Thirkell broke free of his marker to nod in at the back post.
The hosts’ lightning quick start continued as Ben Cohen shot wide and Bromley over the top as Knaresborough pressed a shell-shocked Grimsby defence.
Drury was forced to save a Will Lenehan effort following another corner and then kept out a Bromley shot after a move along the left before Youhill’s follow-up was deflected wide.
Cohen then shot off target, Ben Parkes fired too high, Walker was wide and a Thirkell header was saved before the visitors brought on Daniel Trott to add strength to their attack.
Their first chances arrived before the interval as Luke Mascall fired into the side netting, Jack Debnam hit over and Trott himself broke clear only to fire wide.
In first-half added-time, Mascall was then sent off for something he said to the referee after a Grimsby ‘goal’ was ruled out for a clear handball in the build-up.
The 10 men held their own during the early stages of the second period and a Lenehan header from Bromley’s free-kick was the nearest that Stansfield’s troops came to adding to their tally.
Another free-kick, this time on the corner of the penalty area, did however produce a third and decisive goal, Thirkell curling the ball into Drury’s top left corner.
With the game out of their reach, the visitors grew increasingly frustrated and began to target the match referee as well as the Boro players.
Undeterred, the hosts kept coming and Bromley shot into the side-netting before Youhill had an easy task to make it 4-0 after Cohen’s run and cross from the left in the 71st minute.
Bromley again went close before Drury became the second Grimsby player ro receive his marching orders, again for verbal abuse of the man in black.
Walker then rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds by adding a fifth goal in the second minute of added-time, converting a Dan Clayton centre from the right as a fine team performance took Knaresborough back to the top of the table in stunning fashion.