PRESTWICH’S hopes of winning a record-breaking third consecutive league title fizzled away at The Heys last Saturday.

The side fell 33 runs short of an imposing target of 208 set by Denton St Lawrence (DSL) – suffering only their second league defeat.

But with leaders Denton West scrambling a three-run victory over Glossop, they extended the gap at the top of the Lancashire County League to 14 points.

With only three games left, with a maximum 15 points to play for, it will take something of a miracle for West to be overturned – although the two teams clash on Saturday. Matt Hawley was the thorn in the Prestwich side with a classy, undefeated century. Indeed, the Heys side had made the perfect start when Mark Dilnutt was out lbw to Andy Bradley off the first ball.

Tom Scott and Bradley conceded just five runs off the first five overs, until Hawley opened up and raced into the 40s in the next seven overs.

Wickets fell sporadically as skipper Bradley claimed Scott Allen for nine, caught by wicketkeeper James Wharmby, and Tom Gibson took a spectacular diving catch at mid-wicket to dismiss Alex Marsh for 10, off the bowling of Sam Holden. Holden also took a neat catch at slip to give Bradley another victim, Liam Garnett, for six.

But with Hawley playing the pivotal role, the runs kept ticking over as he was supported by brother Adam (14) and Ben Tighe (25) to push the total beyond the benchmark score of 200.

Hawley remained unbeaten on 111, made up of 15 boundaries and a six, from 150 balls. Bradley finished with a five-wicket haul for the second week running, conceding 87 runs off from a 25-over spell.

The home side made a fist of chasing down the target, but lacked a big individual score.

Six batsmen reached double figures, but Carl Hey was top scorer with 36, while Tom Gibson (28), Tom Scott (20), Tousuf Miran (19), Steve Orrell (16) and Sam Holden (13) all made starts but were stopped in their path, as the DSL strike bowlers of Rashid Nadeem and Tighe grabbed four wickets apiece.

The loss of Hey with the score on 107-3 was a key moment as the game was evenly poised, and a partnership with Gibson was beginning to prosper.

It was Hawley in the action again, cementing his man-of-the-match status, as he claimed Hey’s wicket via an Allen catch at square leg.

Prestwich will be keen to ensure the West title party is delayed a little longer when they travel to Windsor Park on Saturday.

They play their final home game of the season on Sunday when Dukinfield are the visitors