Sheffield Hallam achieved their first 10-goal haul in their 19-year National League history as they looked ahead to another vital promotion-pushing showdown.
A hat-trick from strike ace Phil Roper put them on course for a 10-2 victory over second-from-bottom visitors Preston and a maximum return from their Men’s North Conference double-header weekend.
Now second-placed Hallam get ready to visit third-placed Durham University on Sunday.
Preston were promoted as champions from the North League but have discovered the difference in standard between regional and national hockey is huge. Hallam had beaten them 8-2 earlier in the season so the result of this match was never going to be in doubt.
Hallam’s first five goals were all from open play as they eased into a 6-1 half-time lead. David Goodfield put them ahead after three minutes, Danny Berry scored their second and fifth goals while Phil Roper’s finish for the third came after Martin Ebbage’s 50 metre run from inside his own half. Ebbage repeated the process for the fourth goal, the only difference being that he scored this one himself and the sixth came courtesy of a twice-taken Tristan Gilbody penalty stroke.
Ebbage made it 7-1 early in the second half followed by the best of the game from David Smith and Roper completed a well-deserved hat-trick with two goals in two minutes.
It was a much tougher clash 24 hours earlier when the Abbyedale side edged out Leek 3-2. They went a goal down but hit back with first half goals from Mike Shaw and Gilbody and a second half strike from Berry although the match ended with a Leek player being red-carded, a yellow-card sin-binning for a Hallam player and the visitors hitting the post.
As a result of their four point haul, Hallam closed the gap on Brooklands to one point after the leaders and third-placed Durham University had shared a 2-2 draw although both of them won their Sunday matches.
All three teams have played 13 matches but Durham are five points adrift of Hallam.
Two crucial games remain in the race for the title, the first being Hallam’s trip to Durham and a possible title decider against Brooklands at Abbeydale on March 17 (6.30pm).
Sheffield Hallam squad: Jamie Cachia (GK), Pat Longson, Mike Shaw, Martin Ebbage, Tom Barrett, David Smith, Alex Bailey, Danny Berry, Duncan Longson (capt), Tristan Gilbody, David Goodfield, Will Musgrave, Phil Roper, Rhys Gowman, Gareth Furlong, Brendan Creed.