IT looks like Ryhope CW will have to battle with Redcar Athletic until the very end of the season for the Wearside League championship.
Both sides again won at the weekend, but whereas Martin Swales’ team comfortably defeated Willington, Redcar were taken to the wire at Boldon CA.
Once again, John Butler was Ryhope’s matchwinner with a hat-trick.
The first came on 20 minutes when he was quick to react after Willington goalkeeper Andrew Stocks had parried a shot from John Harrison.
Just before the interval, Butler converted a penalty, awarded after he had been brought down.
And early in the second half, he beat Stocks for a third time with a shot from just inside the penalty area.
Ryhope remain two points behind Redcar, but have a couple of games in hand, plus a superior goals difference.
Boldon CA were on course for a shock result when they led Redcar with strikes from Chris Robinson and David Hopper.
There were only 11 minutes left as Stuart Poulter reduced the deficit and seven minutes from time James Kesterton equalised from the spot.
In a dramatic finale, Redcar were awarded a second penalty and once again Kesterton made no mistake to earn his side three crucial points.
The six-week lay-off didn’t affect Sunderland West End, who made it nine wins on the bounce when they hammered Kirkbymoorside.
John Coomber, with a brace, Stephen Bogie, Jonathan Greener and Jamie Fryett all beat goalkeeper Tom Hodgson.
Coxhoe Athletic remain bottom after suffering their 20th defeat in 23 games, at home to Prudhoe Town, whose scorers were Christopher Wayne, Damon Ellis, Jake Stafford and Nathan Burrell. Dan Petts raised Coxhoe’s hopes with an equalising goal.
Silksworth Rangers are second from the basement despite winning at Gateshead Leam Rangers.
Anton Crann struck inside the first minute and four minutes later Paul Muir doubled his team’s lead, but they are still seven points adrift of Kirkbymoorside.
Ashbrooke Belford House appeared to be on their way to all three points when they led through Mark Green and Jake Moan at home to Peterlee Town.
A penalty by James Parkinson threw the visitors a lifeline and 15 minutes from the end Peter Crawford forced the ball past Brett Wilson in a goalmouth scramble for the equaliser.
Annfield Plain sprang a surprise at third-placed Stockton Town, where a Scott Wallace hat-trick earned them a narrow victory. Stephen Roberts netted twice for the Teessiders.
Ian Davies was an early marksman for Hartlepool, but Wolviston battled back with Ian Danby’s equaliser on the stroke of half time.