HOCKEY: RUNCORN travelled to Didsbury knowing that a win would give them a four-point lead over their nearest rivals.
They also knew it was going to be tough.
Didsbury came out flying and left their visitors at sixes and sevens.
After a series of short corners, Dids-bury thought they had a deserved early lead but Townley prevented a certain goal with a foot on the line, producing a penalty flick.
But Hampson made a fine reflex save in the bottom left corner.
This should have lifted Runcorn but again it needed a series of smart saves from Hampson before the visitors began to gain any rhythm.
Drake and Yates, who worked tire-lessly in defence, began to step up their attacking roles and produced some slick interchanges with man-of-the-match Pretorius and in-form Kenyon.
Their neat passing gave Neild, Cooper and Shallcross decent possession and service for the first time.
Townley and Neild went close before quick passes from Pretorius and Kenyon allowed Neild some space.
A decisive burst from the latter was matched by fine pass to Kenyon who finished from close range.
On half time, Didsbury had a golden chance to equalise, but dragged the shot wide.
Runcorn realised the second half would be harder and it certainly was.
Didsbury were rolling on their five subs every few minutes and hoped Runcorn would tire.
The back three of Hill, Townley and Wakefield were again outstanding with strong support from Owen, Drake and Yates.
When Townley somehow got away with another leg-stop on the line, Runcorn cleared up to Kenyon.
His pass found Neild who, in turn, released a flying Pretorius.
Drake, Shallcross and Neild had made fantastic runs to take away defenders.
These enabled Pretorius to run from halfway and reach the edge of the area without any real challenge before unleashing a rocket shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
Didsbury decided to get physical but found this Runcorn team have learned to counter such tactics and to control their temper when the opposition are losing their cool.
Eventually, home pressure told with Townley conceding another flick with a foot on the line.
Hampson could not stop the penalty and with 15 minutes left, Runcorn could have folded, but their response showed how far this team has progressed.
The last five minutes dragged as Hampson roared on his team to give him more effort.
Hill again produced an outstanding interception only to suffer a broken foot as a Didsbury player followed through with his shot.
From a late short-corner Yates flew out, but the home side got their drag-flick away towards the top right corner only to see Hampson athletically deflect it wide.
After the match, Hampson said: 'I was pleased with the determination and immense effort.' Training is at Brookvale Recreation Centre on Tuesday evenings, with youth practice (16 and under) from 6pm-7pm and open age from 7pm-8pm.