Manchester Central earned an impressive 2-0 win over league leaders Beechfield United with a confident display at Ten Acres Lane on Saturday.
After a back-and-forth first half, Central opened the score early in the second with a penalty from Cory Knight.
Kaine Martin added a late second to give the home side the three points.
Beechfield came out of the gates the more attacking, but were almost immediately met with a good defensive line by Central, who marshalled out their long balls and cleared the danger at every chance.
Cyril Davies and Tom Greenfield challenged for every ball Beechfield threw forwards, while the whole team was on hand to get a foot in on the ball whenever they could.
The first really good chance of the game came in the 19th minute, when a Beechfield corner managed to get over the head off onrushing Jordan Hadlow in the Central goal.
A shot was played back in by Beechfield, but a combination of several Central players threw their bodies in the way and cleared the ball from the line.
From that moment forward, Central were spurred on to attack.
Josh Frith continued to cause problems down the wing with his pace, breaking free on counterattack almost every time Beechfield tried to go forward.
Central finished the first half with a number of chances from set plays, but couldn’t find the back of the Beechfield net, with the sides going into the interval goalless.
The second half didn’t stay that way long, however, as in the 47th minute a long ball forward saw the Beechfield defence haul down Central’s onrushing attacker and a penalty was awarded.
Central’s top goalscorer Knight made no mistakes from the spot, sending his kick high into the centre of the net, well away from the diving Beechfield goalkeeper.
Beechfield tried to respond positively, attempting to come forward more after conceding, but every time they were met by a near impenetrable Central defence.
Soon the away side was relying almost exclusively on long throws and free kicks as ways to get the ball into Central’s final third, but a white shirt was always there to meet them.
In the 70th minute, there were calls for a second penalty for Central after what appeared to be a clear shove in the back on Knight, but the referee waved away protests.
Six minutes later Frith broke forward and was fouled, and the ball pulled back after the referee’s attempted advantage came to nothing.
Knight took the set-piece, striking it directly at the wall but was then fouled himself in almost the exact same spot for another, near-identical free kick.
This time defender Greenfield came up from the back to take it, with his powerful shot taking a wicked deflection and bouncing just wide of the opposite corner to where he had initially aimed.
Central continued to push forward in the last fifteen minutes, looking for that second goal, with Elvis Amoakwa causing all kinds of problems for Beechfield with his direct running and aerial presence – something he’d been doing all game in the middle of the park.
A nervy moment did come for Central in the 83rd minute though, when a low cross by Beechfield was deflected off the boot of a sliding Greenfield and into the side netting.
Three minutes later, however, Central had the security they needed.
In the 88th minute, Kaine held up the ball well in the box and twisted to shoot from a difficult angle, with the ball bouncing up off the Beechfield goalkeeper and, in somewhat comedic circumstances, spun and bobbled its way into the back of the net beyond the reach of the keeper as he desperately tried to claw at the ball.
From that moment on, Central were content to play no nonsense football, and comfortably met anything Beechfield threw at them in the last few moments of the game.
At the full time whistle, Paul McGuire’s players celebrated not only a brilliant three points against top of the league, but a confident performance throughout the team, from attack right through to defence.