Richard ‘Alfie’ Weller netted a first half hat-trick as Rye Town’s footballers moved 14 points clear at the top of the table.
Weller struck three times in the opening 26 minutes to set Rye on the way to a 6-1 victory at home to Herstmonceux in Macron East Sussex Football League Division One on Saturday.
Still unbeaten Bexhill Town, who have five games in hand on Rye, are now in second place after their 5-2 win over The JC Tackleway.
Rye took less than two minutes to open their account against a much-changed Herstmonceux side from the one which Rye beat by the same scoreline earlier in the season, Weller scoring with a great left-foot shot on the half-volley.
Herstmonceux equalised 15 minutes later with their only meaningful attempt of the first half. Rye defender Rob Wilson slipped, allowing Todd Seavers to go through and score the first goal Rye had conceded in more than 300 minutes.
Rye seized control of the match, however, with two more Weller goals in the space of three minutes.
They went back in front when Weller headed a great cross from the right by George Ball against the crossbar and the ball hit him on the leg as it came down and rebounded in.
Although caught offside around eight times in the first half alone, Weller swiftly completed his treble when he was in the right place at the right time to score from inside the six yard box.
Rye were in charge, but had to wait more than an hour for their fourth goal. The hard working yet luckless Charlie Stevens saw his shot cleared off the line after rounding the goalkeeper and the ball fell straight to substitute Joe Fraser, who smashed it home.
Two goals in the last 10 minutes put the seal on Rye’s 13th victory in 15 league matches. Dominic Cruttenden whipped in a well-struck free kick from the edge of the box which bounced awkwardly in front of the goalkeeper and skidded over his arm.
Rob Levett, Rye’s ‘fox in the box’, finished things off in the dying minutes, after Stevens unselfishly squared for him to tap into an empty net.
Barnaby Osborne and Sam Henham were impressive in the centre of the park, as was Ollie Skinner, who started out wide before reverting back into the middle, but Weller was the Pikes Cleaning man of the match. The match sponsor was Olly Furnival, of the Hoof burger restaurant.
Rye: Ridgers; Wilson, Cruttenden, Willis; Ball, Foulkes (Fraser), Henham, Osborne, Skinner; Weller (Levett), Stevens.
Rye need five points from their remaining three league games - against Wadhurst United, Icklesham Casuals and Bexhill - to make absolutely sure of finishing in one of the two promotion places.
Their next two matches, however, are in the cups, starting with a Hastings & District FA Junior Cup quarter-final at home to Division Three leaders Bexhill Rovers this Saturday, weather permitting.
Osborne is unavailable due to work and Sammy Foulkes is cup-tied, but Ben Heffernan is set to return. Kick-off at The Salts is 1.30pm.
Rye Town’s upcoming fixtures: February 4 Bexhill Rovers (h) Hastings & District FA Junior Cup quarter-final, February 18 Westfield II (h) Robertsbridge Charity Intermediate Cup quarter-final, February 25 Wadhurst United (a).
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