JOINT table toppers Torridgeside took an important step forward in their Premier Division title bid with a 3-0 win away to reigning champions Boca Seniors on Saturday.

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The significant victory marked the first of a series of matches between the division’s top contenders that could see the title effectively decided within the next month.

In a decisive March programme Torridgeside will meet fellow leaders Bideford Reserves twice and also have to play third-placed Braunton. Meanwhile, Bideford also have to play unbeaten North Molton, who are fourth with plenty of games in hand, and Boca will play Braunton.

Saturday’s clash saw Boca enjoy the majority of the possession in the opening half. But apart from a chance for Dan Jenkins, whose shot went just wide, they were unable to turn it into clear-cut scoring chances.

Ten minutes before the break Jamie Bright laid the pass to put Marc Bettis through and he beat the defence and rounded the keeper to put Torridgeside ahead at the break.

Ten minutes after the re-start and Torridgeside were 2-0 up when Mike Hedden headed home from a corner and five minutes later it was 3-0 after Rob Holland picked up the ball on the byline and weaved his way through before rolling it into Bettis to tap in.

Midway through the second half and Torridgeside were able to sit back and defend their comfortable lead.

Fellow leaders Bideford, meanwhile, romped home 7-0 in what was a potential banana skin for their aspirations away to Appledore Reserves and now share the top spot both on points and goal difference, although they have played one game more.

This was a big difference from two previous clashes between the teams.

“We were lucky to beat them in the Brayford Cup and they took league points off us at the Sports Ground,” said Bideford’s Sam Stephens. “But this was one of our best displays. We clicked from the start and opened the scoring in the first five minutes.”

Will Nicholls hit the opener, Stephens followed with a second 10 minutes later and a neat chip over the keeper gave Nicholls his second and Bideford their third before the break.

Nicholls completed his hat-trick straight from the re-start and then added his fourth before substitute Jake England and Phil Kelly completed the scoring.

Shebbear completed a depleted Premier Division programme with a 1-0 win away to Barnstaple AAC.

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