THE battle for the CAFA Division One title became a very exclusive affair as Pentland United and Wick Groats edged further away from the chasing pack.
A 10-point gap separates second-placed Groats from third-placed Staxigoe United, with table-topping Pentland an extra point clear at the top.
With six games of the season remaining, an almighty collapse from the top two would have to take place if any one from the rest of the pack were to have a chance to land the crown.
Pentland United consolidated their grip at the top with an impressive 5-2 win away to Thurso Acks.
United’s goals came from Conor Cormack (2), Sean Campbell, Michael Petrie and Andrew Hardwick while Thurso Acks responded with strikes from Louis Webster and Paul Wares.
Pentland co-manager Michael Gray said: “We started off really well. We had a couple of tense moments but once we made it 4-1 the sting was taken out of Acks.
“Maybe at times we were a bit too open, but that’s me being overly critical – it was a very good performance on the whole.
“We’re top and we’re just looking to maintain our momentum and we continually challenge the guys in training to improve.
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s a two-way shootout for the title between ourselves and Groats – although all the other teams can beat either of us in a one-off occasion.
“We’ve a slender lead but we try not to be too distracted with what Wick Groats do – as long as we keep up our good form.”
Wick Groats lie a point behind Pentland United after they put on a convincing second-half display to see off Staxigoe United 3-0.
Grant MacNab, Kyle Ross and Mark Macadie all hit the target for Groats and boss Kevin Anderson revealed that a half-time pep talk was need to get his side firing on all cylinders.
He said: “I thought it was a very flat first half – both teams just cancelled each other out.
“At half-time, I reminded them of the importance of the game and the likelihood that Pentland United were winning – which, as it turned out, they were. I told them that if we didn’t get a result here, then Pentland will pull away from us. Thankfully the message was received loud and clear.
“The boys looked a different – and better – team in the second half and put in a very good performance. With only six games left, we’ve got to keep winning. If we don’t then the title’s gone.”
Elsewhere, John O’Groats demolished Lybster 7-0. Jimmy Budge led the way with a hat-trick while Eddie MacGregor and Mark Bremner both hit doubles.
Halkirk earned themselves a point when they weathered the storm from Thurso Swifts to draw 1-1. Davie Johnson netted for Halkirk after Craig Ross had put Swifts ahead.