ERIKE Sousa fired a first half hat-trick as Prestwich Heys romped to a 7-1 win against Atherton Town on Saturday to stay top of the Manchester League Premier Division.

The winger’s treble, scored in a devastating spell of five goals in 17 minutes for the team, ensured a winning return to league action after suffering a first defeat of the season in their last outing two weeks ago.

There was never really any sign of Heys coming unstuck in a game that was again switched to Eccles College's all-weather surface to ensure it went ahead.

It took only five minutes for Heys to open their account. Paul Tierney paved the way with a great through-ball to release Sousa, who slotted home to give his side the perfect start.

Atherton, seeking points to keep clear of the relegation zone, responded with some good possession but found chances hard to come by against a resolute Heys' defence.

In contrast, Heys looked dangerous in every attack.

Ash Reece got forward from full-back to fire an effort that landed on the bar before a last-ditch tackle thwarted Tierney as he went for the rebound.

Wes Bancroft then released Sousa who burst into the box only to see Town keeper Lewis Murray save with his feet.

However, the mounting pressure told in the 29th minute as Lee Bruce broke down the right, cut inside and slipped a great pass behind the defence for Sousa to slide the ball past Murray.

Four minutes later a great ball out of defence from John Blackley found Bruce who flicked the ball round his marker and went through to finish in the bottom corner.

Heys added a fourth in the 38th minute. Sousa underlined a return to his brilliant best with a cutting run inside from the wing, leaving scattered defenders in his wake before unleashing a 25-yard shot that whistled into the net.

Great skill from Dalton McLaughlin saw him beat three men and carve another opening for Sousa but this time Murray was equal to the challenge.

However, on the stroke of half time Heys made it five. A free kick from Max White was swung into the box and Tierney scored with a deft header at the back post.

The half-time break provided a temporary respite for Atherton but within a minute of the restart they shipped a sixth goal. Tierney broke from half way, played a one-two with Bruce, before going through to fire across Murray into the bottom corner.

A raft of substitutions and a hail shower dimmed Heys' momentum a little but they continued to control the game and picked up the pace when Sousa and Jon Stephenson combined to create an opening for Shaun Johnson, whose shot was held low down.

Mark Baguley then fired over before a great run from Sousa ended with Tierney just failing to connect.

In the 75th minute, Heys got their seventh when George Powell joined the attack, the left-back going on a mazy dribble before rounding Murray and slotting home.

Atherton showed good spirit to hit back almost immediately, a break down the right saw Tom Jackson find space and he drilled a low shot into the far corner to ruin Rob Sadler’s hopes of a clean sheet.

The result ensured Heys remain above Royton on goal difference, but with three games in hand. They are scheduled to entertain Manchester Gregorians at Adie Moran Park on Saturday, kick off 2pm. The club's website www.prestwichheys.com will announce any last-minute change of venue.