Steph Bedford hit a hat-trick as Pendle Forest hammered bottom side Neston to claim an eight-successive win in the North Hockey Women’s League Premier Division.
Forest travelled down to the Wirral peninsula, and after an apprehensive start, finally broke through in the 15th minute.
Freya Bythell drove the ball along the back line, connecting with sister Olivia, who slapped the ball in, out of the keeper’s range.
Four minutes later a strike by Bedford found a narrow gap underneath the keeper and hit the back board, making it 2-0 to Forest.
With Neston having no real intent to press the Forest defence, Pendle had time to pick their moments to attack and pick up the intensity.
They earned a penalty corner, and a deflection from Thea Cormack found the keeper’s pads, but Bedford was on hand again to convert, giving the keeper no chance to react.
Forest were now into their stride, and Cormack then bagged the next goal herself when Lisa Crewe took the penalty strike from the top of the D, for Cormack to find and deflect the ball into the back netting.
Although Forest had a 4-0 lead, just before half-time a failed clearance at the back allowed Neston a foot back in the door and the score line now read 4-1 at the break.
Neston continued to keep a tight unit as Forest attacked.
They persevered and kept possession, waiting for gaps to appear.
Finally it came in dramatic form when Freya Bythell drove along the back line once more, and sent the ball across goal, with Bedford featuring again.
With her back to goal, she picked up the ball and performed a remarkable hit backwards over her head, taking the keeper completely by surprise, providing her with a well-deserved hat-trick and player of the match title.
Tomorrow Forest are at home to second place Wakefield.
Pendle Forest seconds hosted top of the league Lancaster and Morecambe in an early Saturday pushback.
Morecambe came out strong, catching the home team on the back foot, opening the scoring minutes in from a rebound off keeper Jayne Kirkpatrick’s pads.
Forest took time to settle as players had to adapt to playing out of their regular positions, due to illness and injury.
Lancaster capitalised, leading to a second goal from a well worked penalty corner.
Pendle created their own chances, earning several penalty corners of their own, but solid defending denied them a deserved goal.
On the stroke of half-time the visitors were awarded a penalty corner, but the defensive back line of Janet Mitchell-Stanworth, Rebecca Whitham, player of the match Harriet Ashworth, Sarah Towers and Kirkpatrick, did a sterling job of keeping the ball out of the goal from four attempts, before conceding their third goal in controversial fashion, despite feeling the keeper was fouled.
Pendle started the second half fired up, distributing the ball down the wings.
From the halfway line, Mawgan Naylor passed left to Cathy Killgallon, slipping to Cath Hutchinson, who on the top of the D tapped the ball to Karen Wignall, nutmegging the keeper.
The attacking forwards continued to obstruct the incensed Pendle keeper Kirkpatrick, leading to a reprimand on both sides.
Lancaster’s fourth came from a beautiful reverse stick flick a metre from the back line, and they closed the game out with a penalty corner.