Hemel Hempstead Town went 11 points clear at the top of the Calor League Southern Premier Division with a gritty 4-1 win over Bideford on a soggy night at Vauxhall Road.
With the pitch only deemed playable after an afternoon of hard work by a team of volunteers, Hemel carried on where they left off at the end of 2013 to make it 12 wins from 12 at home this season.
The saturated pitch made it hard for Hemel to produce their slick passing football, and there were few chances of note in the first half until Town broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute.
Ben Mackey’s goalbound effort was blocked by a Bideford hand, and leading scorer Mackey stepped up to convert the resulting penalty himself.
Hemel came out of the blocks quickly after the break and doubled their lead within five minutes of the restart.
Dave Pearce floated a ball into the box after good work from Kyle Connolly, and Lewis Toomey rose to flick his header into the corner of the net.
Dean Brennan’s side were now well on top and it was soon 3-0 when defender Shane Blackett smashed home after a penalty box scramble.
With the result now beyond doubt, both sides seemed to tire as a result of the energy-sapping pitch but Bideford reduced the deficit in the 81st minute when Ethan Phillips slotted home a penalty.
That only served to increase Hemel’s attacking intent, however, and they wrapped up the win with a fourth goal just 30 seconds from substitute Charlie Mpi.