The Premier Division’s top two collided in the standout L & C fixture this weekend, and De La Salle prevailed by defeating leaders Stretford Paddock in a statement performance that strengthened their title credentials.
Paddock went into the weekend with a healthy eight-point cushion, and had the chance to pile the pressure on their rivals, who need to convert their games in hand into points to overhaul their opponents.
But, in the clash at Salford Sports, De La Salle underlined their intentions by outclassing the visitors by registering a comfortable 3-1 victory – the exact result of the last game between the two.
De La Salle scored two in the space of seven first-half minutes to go 2-0 up in the 26th minute and a sublime through-ball set up a third in the 73rd minute. Paddock netted a late consolation penalty but were deservedly beaten and De La Salle are now five points from the summit, but with three games in hand.
The other game played in the division saw Rochdalians continue their uplift in form as they cruised to a 7-1 win at AFC Oldham to head for the comfort of mid-table.
Division One was reduced to one game and it was another top-of-the-table clash as second-placed Signol Athletic took on leaders Chadderton Cott.
This time though, the leaders had no such problems, as Cott eventually ground down a spirited Signol, clinically dispatching them in a 5-1 victory to leave them within touching distance of the title already after stretching their lead to 11 points at the summit.
Division Two teams had plenty of action in what has been an exciting season.
Leaders Hattersley turned on the style in the first half as they entertained Baguley Athletic and ruthlessly raced into a 3-0 lead.
A more even second half saw the teams share four goals but the 5-2 win keeps Hattersley a healthy six points clear of the chasing pack.
The other top game featured the second and third placed teams in a superb encounter that was a great advert for their clubs and the league as Eccles United switched their game to Wythenshawe Wanderers.
It was a thriller from start to finish enjoyed by both teams, their supporters and referee John Melia which was decided with a thundering header from a corner by United’s outstanding Callum Collins on 70 minutes.
Wanderers did their best to get back on terms and were made to regret missing a last-minute chance from close range and they are now three points behind United.
Sale Amateurs have had a restricted programme so far this season with a variety of problems and they were delighted to secure an emphatic 6-2 win at Mellor to go into the New Year on a high.
The quality of the division was also on display at South Manchester who hosted Stretford Paddock reserves in another end-to-end thriller that ended in a breathless 3-3 result.
Division Three is also very competitive with the top score being posted by Abacus Media reserves who cruised to a 6-1 win over Aldermere.
The other games were all close contests with the chasing pack trying to hunt down non-playing leaders AFC Stockport.
Second-placed Chadderton Park missed their chance to close the gap as they were held 1-1 at Village Manchester.
Park are three points behind the leaders but still have a game in hand.
The other two games ended at 3-2 in favour of Hooley Bridge Celtic at Elton Lib Hargreaves and Woodhouses who were delighted to secure their second win of the season hosting Salford Albion.
There was an upset in Division A as leaders North Walkden reserves lost out 4-2 to local rivals Salford Vics reserves.
It leaves them two points ahead of non-playing Woodsend Athletic who have two games in hand.
Santos and Moston Brook Reserves shared the spoils in an eight-goal thriller.
The Santos goals were scored by Liam Churchill, Tim Gallagher, Ben Marshall and Ryan McConkie (penalty) in another exciting game.
There were 3-0 victories for Milton reserves at Salford Storm and Greater Manchester at home to Milnrow Firgrovia to complete another lively day of action in the division.
There was just one game in Division B and in a local derby, AFC Oldham thirds emerged with a 3-1 win over Oldham Saints in a mid-table contest.
Plenty of action and a flood of goals in Division C with runaway leaders Dukinfield Athletic on fire with a crushing 9-1 win over Chadderton Park reserves.
Second-placed Mellor reserves were not far behind Athletic as they won 8-3 at Govan Athletic Development to leave them 12 points behind with four games in hand.
Plenty of goals at AFC Stockport Warriors who lost out 5-3 to Staly Lions which was in contrast to Deans Youth who scored the only goal of their game with Village Manchester reserves.
Division D has new leaders in Bury Ams thirds who cruised to a 4-0 win against AFC Oldham fourths to overtake non-playing leaders Moston Brook fourths.
Lowly Didsbury reserves pulled off one of their best results of the season as they held high-flying Whalley Range to a 1-1 draw and Milltown reserves moved into the top half of the table with a 4-2 win over Irlam TigerA.
The other game typified an exciting day in the league as Salford Vics Development and Altrincham Hale Reserves battled out a stunning 5-5 draw.
In the Manchester Amateur Cup, Irlam Tiger Rangers lost out 4-3 to West Didsbury FC.
The weekend brought a welcome return to decent weather that allowed more games than have taken place in the preceding two weekends. Covid, however, continues to disrupt and resulted in a number of postponements. Our Fixtures Secretary, Malc Kershaw, is working diligently to rearrange these games in the New Year.
Finally, we’d like to wish all our clubs and representatives a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The league is set to resume on January 8, but any changes at national level will be communicated in good time to all clubs and committees.