Horncastle Town 0
Skegness Town 2
Defending champions Skegness Town continued their relentless charge towards retaining their title with a comfortable, if scrappy, win over East Lindsey rivals Horncastle Town.
They had influential skipper Ben Davison to thank for both goals, scored during the first half at The Wong.
This top-of-the-table clash - second-placed Horncastle trailed the leaders from the coast by just six points prior to kick-off - had a late change to the kick-off time, due to floodlight concerns, but a large crowd gathered to witness the third encounter of the season between these two championship hopefuls.
It was the away supporters who left the happier, having witnessed their side complete a league and cup treble over the Wongers.
The previous two victories - 3-0 in the league and 3-1 in the county cup - had been on the Wainfleet Road 3G pitch, but Nick Chapman’s men showed they were just as comfortable on grass, despite being caught out by the odd bobble.
Anyone expecting a classic match will have been disappointed. It was obvious from the first whistle that both sets of players were aware of the importance of this fixture.
With form teams Lincoln Moorlands Railway and Hykeham Town snapping at their heels, Horncastle needed to keep in touch with the leaders, while the Lilywhites were keen to keep their hands on that championship trophy.
The appointment of Darrell Bright as referee was a smart move by the league and he was soon called into action to calm things down. His success can be measured by the fact that only two yellow cards - one for each team - were required to keep things under control.
Yes, there were some early histrionics from both sides, but Mr Bright’s performance prevented things boiling over.
With Andy Parish serving the first of his three-match suspension, Jamie Epton retained his spot at left back and Lilywhites boss Nick Chapman pushed Davison into the frontline, starting George Hobbins in midfield. This left Alex Nichols on the bench.
Early exchanges were played out at a frantic pace as both sides battled to boss the midfield. It was an interesting contest between the busy Richard Jackson and energetic Scott Lowman for Horncastle, against the visitors’ nimble Hobbins and solid Arron Scutt.
Skegness broke the deadlock in the 16th minute when McCauley Parker released Will Britton down the inside left channel in the Horncastle box. The striker fired goalwards but saw his effort cleared off the line, only for Davison to pounce on the rebound.
The home side struggled to create any clear cut chances, but in the 22nd minute the Wong faithful were given something to cheer about when Ben Fidling cut inside from the left and fizzed a right foot shot just wide of Travis Portas’s goal.
Their hopes were dented a minute later when an outstanding header from Davison, from Will Britton’s cross, doubled the seasiders’ lead.
This silenced the home following, who had already seen how difficult it was going to be to break down the Skegness defence.
Indeed Miles Chamberlain was his usual dominant self at the back for the Lilywhites. Ably supported by Daniel Stevens, Courtney Warren and Epton, he didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. His performance helped to secure the seasiders’ fourth consecutive clean sheet.
At the other end Skegness ended the half on the attack and a Scutt snapshot went just wide of a post.
The second half was no spectacle either, with both sides huffing and puffing, while letting themselves down by the final ball.
Davison, however, will be kicking himself for not completing his hat-trick when presented with the half’s best chance after 49 minutes. The ball fell to him in acres of space at the back post, but he dragged his shot into the side netting.
To their credit Horncastle refused to give up, hoping to half the deficit and create some panic in the visiting defence. But a Lowman header failed to trouble Portas and the keeper tipped over the only other real threat following a home corner.
The win leaves Skegness eight points clear at the top of the table with two games in hand over their nearest rivals. The two sides meet again in March in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
On Saturday Skegness are at home to CGB Humbertherm (kick-off 2pm), while Horncastle travel to Nettleham.
HORNCASTLE: Burchnall, Rawdon, Fidling, Andrew, Johnson, Brown, Lovett, Jackson, Harness, Blondel, Lowman, Shinn, Caudwell, Burton, Marceniuk, Stones.
SKEGNESS: Portas, Warren, Epton, Stevens, Chamberlain, Scutt, Rayner-Mistry, Davison, Britton, Hobbins, Parker, Nichols, Cunliffe, Murray-Paris.