Pendle Forest shrugged off the lose of five regular faces to beat Longridge 6-3 and go 12 points clear at the top of North Hockey Women’s League Division 2 North West – with 15 more to play for.
It was a potential banana skin, with Longridge the league’s second highest scorers.
But Forest started brightly, pinning Longridge into their defensive 23-metre area.
The pressure soon told after a scramble in the D left Karen Wignall a simple tap in in front of goal.
Although Forest were on top, Longridge were dangerous on the counter attack, and an uncharacteristic misjudgement by Forest goalkeeper Laura Kendall led to an equaliser.
Forest stepped up the pressure, but despite having chances to go ahead, found themselves behind when hesitation and poor marking left a Longridge attacker with a simple chance to push the ball past Kendall, who had no chance.
Forest didn’t panic, and led by the inspirational Charlotte Hartley, started creating chances.
Hartley weaved through the defence and past the keeper, only to see her shot find the outside of the post.
Rachael O’Brien, on her return to first team action after a seven-year absence, was instrumental in Forest’s equaliser, sending the ball into the D for Charlotte O’Brien to shoot.
The Longridge keeper made a save, and Charlotte squared the ball to Cathy Kilgallon for a push into the goal at the back post.
This galvanised Forest, who quickly went ahead when Hartley found herself unmarked in front of goal for a flick into the net.
Longridge continued to threaten but Forest scored a fourth on half-time when Kilgallon won a short corner after being upended by the keeper. Hartley converted with a deflection off an initial shot from Lisa Crewe for Forest to lead 4-2.
The pace slowed a little in the second half, with Forest sitting deep, they invited Longridge to press high.
They won, and converted, a short corner when a bouncing ball found it’s way in at the back post.
Forest quickly responded, winning a short corner. Crewe had an initial strike at goal saved, but her second strike was deflected into the roof of the net by Hayley Baines.
With both teams tiring, the game became scrappy with both sides going down to 10 when Olivia Purtill was green carded for pushing, and a Longridge player receiving the same card for persistent stick tackling.
With the game winding down Wignall deflected a ball over, before player of the match Rachael O’Brien wrapped up the scoring when the ball fell to her in front of goal for the game to finish 6-3.
With five games remaining, Forest host Garstang tomorrow.
Forest thirds beat Witton Warriors 4-0 in a rearranged fixture at Marsden Heights.
Witton had the upper hand in the first 10 minutes.
But Forest got the break they needed when Rosie Southworth squared wide right to Paula Markham, who made a rare journey 10 metres over the halfway line to play a neat diagonal to Fran Cesc Ratcliffe, who carried at speed before squaring across the D to Emily Dunleavy, who slapped the ball neatly in.
In the second half, Forest’s second goal came from a hit in from Rebecca Whitham-Kay, and after a bit of a scrap Ratcliffe managed to poke the ball in at the left post.
The third goal came from great team passing play.
Amy Trickett to Hutchinson to Rachel Bradley, who laid the ball on to Ratcliffe mid D. Ratclffe reverse swiped the ball to bag her brace and make it 3-0.
Forest’s final goal came just minutes from time when all Bradley’s running finally paid off. The striker deftly flicked the ball reverse stick and it lodged nicely in the centre of the net.