NINE points clear at Christmas – and it should have been more says thriving Stanley United boss Andy Eaton.
While Beeston St Anthony’s continue to cut it out the running in the Premier Division, Stanley are leading the chasing pack a merry dace in Division One with 10 victories, four draws and just one loss from 15 league games.
Saturday’s 3-1 success at Old Modernains proved the latest instalment, yet a sign of Stanley’s high standards is illustrated by regrets about previous draws with Boroughbridge, Aberford Albion and Whitkirk Wanderers.
Eaton feels a nine-point lead should really have been 15 – but, either way, all roads likely lead to the West Yorkshire Premier Division.
“It’s a really good feeling to see us at the top of the table and, to be honest, the gap could have been so much bigger too,” said Eaton.
“Prior to that result we have had three draws on bounce that really we should have won, so we could have been flying but it is really good to know that we’re up there and looking solid, so I’m really happy with the team.
“A month ago I was still thinking well maybe we can do this but now is different, the lads and I can really see that it’s up to us now.
“We all want it, we all believe and we all know that who wins the league is in our hands now.”
Nathan Smith’s hat-trick secured Saturday’s victory with Eaton effusive in his praise for his side’s display at Old Modernians.
“That first-half performance was the best we have played all season,” he said.
“The surface at Leeds Modernians was really nice and we just completely took advantage of that.
“Nathan has only played a handful of games for us this season and he’s been great; he’s very quick.”
Stanley, too, are quickly putting clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack, yet there seems no danger of Eaton’s men getting complacent.
East End Park, Ilkley Town and Whitkirk Wanderers are all nine points behind with one, two and three games in hand respectively.
Headingley, in fifth, are 12 points adrift with five games in hand; Eaton beamed: “Its nice to know that other teams around the top especially have been preoccupied with other games last weekend and they can’t concentrate on the league which puts us at an advantage.
“We want to win every game now, there’s a real desire but to be honest the lads aren’t feeling the pressure, especially now with the break to re-group.
“Over that break we will keep ticking over though, we have a practice game on Boxing Day that will take us into the New Year with a little urgency.”
A John Mallinson double allowed Beeston St Anthony’s to open up a gap at the top of the West Yorkshire Premier Division on Saturday.
Saints capitalised on Field’s absence from the fixture list by overcoming mid-table Shelley 2-1 to open up a four-point lead over their rivals.
The loss leaves Shelley in ninth, having played significantly more games than their nearest rivals.
Fourth-placed Horbury Town continued to chase the top three teams down with a 2-1 home win over Pool.
Two goals in five first-half minutes from Kieran Corley and Lamin Bojang was enough to secure the points despite a consolation from Steven Preston for the visitors.
Oxenhope Recreation moved into fifth with a sound 3-1 home win against Otley Town, who missed the chance to leap up to seventh. Christopher Day, Daniel Moriarty and Sam Murphy got the goals for the home side, Scott Cater finding the net for Town.
Knaresborough Town’s misery continued as they slumped to an eighth loss in 11, losing 2-1 at home to fellow strugglers Brighouse Old Boys.
Old Boys stay 12th, with Town five points adrift of second-bottom Robin Hood.
In Division One, Nathan Smith scored an excellent hat-trick on just his second start of the season as Stanley United made easy work of Leeds Modernians. James Lee got a consolation for the home side, but Stanley seem irrepressible as they stormed nine points clear at the top of the table.
Elsewhere, Ripon clamboured off the foot of the table with a huge three points against Baildon Trinity Athletic.
A solitary goal from Daniel Edmunds was enough to haul Ripon three points away from Thornhill who are now bottom.
In Division Two, second-bottom side Ossett Common Rovers heaped even more misery on drifting basement club Garforth Rangers.
Rovers knocked nine past Rangers without reply, Ben Grech-Brooksbank the pick of the scorers with four to his name, and team-mate James Ferguson bagging ‘only’ a hat-trick.
Ashley Smith added another, but the result leaves Garforth 11 points behind their recent opponents.
In the League Cup, runaway Division Two leaders Huddersfield Amateur stunned Division One side Featherstone Colliery, overcoming them 2-1 (aet).
Sam Halstead and Joe Gannon scored for their respective sides, before Matthew Parker scored the dramatic winner for the lower league side Huddersfield in extra time to progress to the next round.