Pendle Forest won by the odd goal in five at Lytham on Saturday, and now top North Hockey Women’s League Division 2 North West by five points.
Closest rivals Clitheroe and Blackburn Northern have four games remaining, with Forest holding a game in hand on their neighbours.
Without their regular starting sweeper Jan Cormack, Forest had to field a different defence, who took a while to settle, allowing Lytham a couple of half chances in the opening 10 minutes.
The first half was scrappy with neither team really dominating the game.
Lytham found themselves temporarily down to 10 when one of their players was sin binned for a shove on a Forest player.
Forest took advantage of their numerical superiority when a moment of brilliance from Olivia Bythell sent a throughball to player of the match Karen Wignall, who rounded the last defender and the goalkeeper before passing the ball across the goal for Charlotte O’Brien to slot in at the back post.
Wignall was green carded shortly afterwards for a poor stick tackle.
The score at half-time remained 1-0 to Forest.
The second half started in much the same way with both teams struggling to maintain possession and control the game.
Lytham equalised from a short corner when the ball deflected up off a defender’s stick to wrong foot Kat Gorman in the Forest goal.
This fired Forest up and they started to win more 50/50 balls and keep possession for longer periods.
Forest had a superb chance to go 2-1 up when an excellent ball from captain Cathy Waters split the Lytham defence to find Wignall one-on-one with the goalkeeper, only for the umpire to call the ball back for an earlier infringement, resulting in manager Scott Hornby getting a talking to from the umpire for voicing his frustrations.
Their persistence paid off when they were rewarded with a second and third goal in quick succession.
The second goal came from a short corner when Deb Bythell lifted the ball at goal, only for the Lytham keeper to pad the ball straight down to Wignall, who poked home the rebound.
The third goal was scored in a similar fashion when another lifted ball from Bythell was sent this time towards Fiona Head, who scored from close range.
Forest took their foot off the pedal and allowed Lytham back into the game, and with 10 minutes remaining they scored a second goal that came from a free hit just outside the D.
The remaining ten minutes were frantic with Lytham trying to find an equaliser, while the experienced heads in the Forest team ran the clock down by keeping possession and frustrating Lytham.
Sally Evans commanded the Pendle Forest defence, making excellent tackles and playing the ball out into space, and this resulted in Forest seeing the game out to win 3-2.
Forest’s second and third teams were both inactive at the weekend.
All three Pendle Forest teams are playing at home at Marsden Heights Community College tomorrow, with the first team playing Wigton at 11-30 a.m., the thirds playing WIndermere at 1-30 p.m., and the seconds playing Preston at 3 p.m.