Lancashire and Cheshire AFL
Whalley Range usurped long-time leaders Rochdalians in a hard-fought close encounter to move top of the Premier Division, as action resumed in the second half of the L and C season with virtually a full programme of league games and just one delayed cup tie.
The cup match in question was in the Whitehead Cup, where Elton Lib Hargreaves showed why they are flying high at the top of Division A as they enjoyed a comfortable 4-0 win at Division B high-flyers Parrs Wood Celtic Reserves.
The win takes them through to the last eight where they await the winners of the tie between Rochdale Galaxy and Chadderton Cott Reserves.
The top game of the day was at Whalley Range where the home team took on long-time Premier Division leaders Rochdalians.
In a game of excellent quality the first half ended locked at 0-0 as both sides missed chances.
Then Range struck twice in five minutes with Danny Heffernan bagging a brace to put his team in charge. But, Rochdalians showed their battling qualities as a close-range header from Scott Hopley reduced the arrears. Range restored their two-goal advantage with a clinical finish from Tim Kinsella and although Rochdalians again hit the target with another header from Adam Sweeney Range held on to go ahead of Rochdalians by two points.
Rochdalians still have the title in their own hands as they have three games in hand of their rivals.
The recent good run of Salford Victoria was ended when they lost out to Manchester Challenge Cup finalists Abacus Media by the odd goal in five.
Waterloo took advantage of the Victoria defeat to overtake them with a 3-1 win at Trafford United and a 3-1 win by Mellor saw them move into the chasing pack.
South Manchester are also in the mix after a comfortable 8-3 win at Old Ashtonians.
The top teams in Division One kept their status as they all enjoyed big wins.
Leaders Dom Doyle disposed of Oldham Victoria 7-2 but Parrs Wood Celtic kept in touch as they too kept up their hot run with a 6-1 derby win at Didsbury.
Celtic made an early show of their intent with strikes from Charlie McDonald, Aaron Minshull and Pat Davin in the first 25 minutes to have them firmly in control.
Irlam Tigers were also hot in a 5-1 win over Moston Brook and Chorltonians were emphatic 8-1 victors’ at Stoconians.
The other game in the Division was a much more even affair as Swinton and AFC Oldham shared six goals.
It’s tight at the top of Division Two with just two points separating the top three teams.
Manchester Polonia still rule the roost after a hard-earned 2-1 win at Urmston Town but only on goal difference from Newton who enjoyed a comfortable 4-1 win at Spurley Hey.
It was also close in the other games with Bedians winning 2-1 at Santos and Rochdalians Reserves beat Mellor Reserves 4-2.
The local derby at South Manchester Reserves saw them share six goals with Chorltonians Reserves with Josh Harper, Nathan Cox and Callum Clowes on target for South.
Dukinfield Athletic maintained their five-point lead at the top of Division three as they went nap with a 5-0 victory over Aldermere, whilst Stoconians Reserves stay in touch with a 2-0 win at Mellor Reserves. However, Signol Athletic lost ground as they went down 5-2 hosting Salford Victoria Reserves.
Radclyffe have plenty of games in hand on the leading teams and a 2-0 win at Abacus Media Reserves sees them firmly in the title hunt.
Mellor 3rds beat Chadderton Park 3-1 and the basement battle at Heaton Mersey ended with honours even in a 2-2 deadlock with Village Manchester.
With Division A’s runaway leaders Elton Lib Hargreaves in cup action it gave their title rivals a chance to close them down and Moston Brook Reserves reduced the points deficit to eight with an efficient 3-1 win at Flixton.
AFC Oldham Reserves dented the hopes of Rochdale Galaxy with an exciting 5-3 win.
Signol Athletic’s young second team were in good form with a 5-0 win at Chorltonians Villa.
In freezing conditions on a tricky pitch Unicorn got 2019 off to a flyer with their biggest win of the season. The centre halves Ashley Jones and Sam Storey both notched with identikit headers from corners and then both keepers pulled off great saves to keep the half time score at 2-0.
With temperatures on the pitch warming up Ramone Williams coolly tapped in the third after another good save from the Dukinfield stopper.
The Dukinfield striker was on hand to reduce the arrears after a few ricochets’ in the box before James Steadman rammed the ball into the roof of the net to steady Unicorn’s nerves.
Sam Storey smashed in a goal of the season contender from 35 yards after winning the ball on the half way line and Ben McKie capped off a great team move with another cracker from the edge of the box to end a good day for Unicorn.
The battle for the top spot in Division B continues at a hot pace with two teams, level on points, setting the pace. Chadderton Cott Reserves are top dogs and improved their goal difference with a big 10-2 win over Moston Brook 3rds but AFC Stockport were also in good form winning 4-2 at Hooley Bridge Celtic Reserves and have two vital games in hand over their title rivals.
Old Stretfordians Reserves slipped off top spot after a shock 2-1 defeat at Hillgate and are now two points adrift of the top two.
Bury Amateurs Reserves were in seventh heaven after a clinical 7-0 defeat of Staly Lions and the other game saw AFC Oldham 3rds despatch Chorltonians Athletic 4-2.
In Division C it was 10/10 for unstoppable leaders Deans who had to work hard for a 2-0 win at a determined Chadderton Park Reserves.
The victory keeps Deans six points clear of Old Stretfordians 3rds who were 5-2 winners at Govan Athletic.
Hollingworth Reserves moved above Govan into third spot after a 7-0 win over Stoconians 4ths.
Pics – action from 1) Whalley Range v Rochdalians (Rochdalians in blue), 2) Didsbury v Parrs Wood Celtic (Parrs Wood in black and white), 3 Heaton Mersey v Village Manchester (Mersey in red), 4) Chorltonians Villa v Signol Athletic Reserves (Signol in yellow)