HOCKEY: Crewe Vagrants 6 Macclesfield 1
A FLURRY of second-half goals helped title-chasing Crewe to a comfortable victory over second-bottom Macclesfield on Saturday.
The lamentable finishing and shaky defending of the first half was a distant memory when Dave Holland hit a hat-trick, and Tim Alexander, Henry Weir and Andrew Ashworth got one apiece.
The victory keeps Crewe level on points at the summit of the North Division Two West, but leaders Bolton devastated Formby 11-0 to extend their goal-difference lead to 16.
Crewe had the best of the opening exchanges with neat short passing and territorial superiority, but failed to exploit several early chances.
Holland and James Capper both blasted wide from short corners and Alexander was twice unable to finish from close range.
On 13 minutes, however, Holland coolly dispatched a penalty flick to open the scoring. A minute later, with the keeper down, Alexander hesitated too long to slot home.
Macclesfield produced several dangerous breaks, exposing gaps in the Crewe defence and twice coming close to canceling out their slender lead with shots flying wide and over.
Within five minutes of the restart, after Ash-worth hit the post, Holland produced a textbook finish from the edge of the D to make it 2-0. Alexander added an easy chance soon after, but Rob Jepson had to make a full-stretch save on the line to prevent Macclesfield hitting back.
Holland completed his treble, before Weir stabbed in from Holland's corner. Ashworth completed a remarkable late spell, slamming home for 6-0 after Steve Bourne and Weir combined.
Macclesfield got a consolation goal in the final minute. Crewe's clash with Bebington on Sunday was postponed due to the freezing conditions.
Crewe 2nds lost 5-2 to Deeside Ramblers 3rds, the 3rds were beaten 5-2 by Macclesfield 2nds, and the 4ths suffered a 4-0 loss to Triton 3rds.
Meanwhile, fourth-placed Crewe Ladies 1sts put vital points between themselves and fifth-placed Northern with a fine 3-1 win.
After weathering heavy pressure, Northern fi-
nally wilted and Dionne Johnson converted a short corner after a Kate Parr flick. Tracey Brookfield fired an unstoppable shot to make it 2-0 with 20 minutes to go, and Lou Crosbie wrapped it up late on.
A team spokesman said: 'This was a vital win.
With just six points separating third and sixth spot, most teams are fighting for survival, especially if the new rule stipulating that the bottom five go down is introduced as expected. There are only 10 teams in the league!'
Crewe Ladies 3rds lost 2-1 to Macclesfield.