AFC DARWEN boosted their North West Counties League Premier Division survival hopes with a 3-0 win over Alsager Town on Saturday.

The three points takes the Salmoners to 18th in the table, two points clear of the bottom three with five games to go.

A nervy first half at the Anchor Ground saw both teams create chances with Jonny Hessian almost putting the Salmoners ahead while Ben Mills had a chance for Alsager.

Darwen came out fighting in the second half and were rewarded just seven minutes in when captain Kiel Lonsdale opened the scoring with a great strike from outside the box.

Nick Hepple then had the ball in the net for the home side but was denied by the offside flag before Darwen stopper Daniel Jackson produced a string of fine saves to preserve the hosts' advantage.

After Hessian and Mark McKay spurned chances to score the crucial second, Hepple did double the lead before substitute Kayle Smith added a late third just moments after coming on.

At the other end of the table Colne kept up the pressure on leaders Runcorn Linnets with a six goal thrashing of Ashton Athletic at the XLCR Stadium.

The Reds took the lead after only six minutes when Jay Hart’s corner fell to Ben Wharton at the near post and he knocked the ball over the line with a clever back-heel.

Colne always looked capable of adding more goals and after 28 minutes they doubled their lead when Chris Anderson released Hart and he found the top corner of the net with a perfectly executed finish past keeper Martin Pearson.

The Reds created further chances and added a third goal five minutes before the interval when Wharton’s run into the area drew the visitors’ defence and his low cross was knocked home by the unmarked Hart at the far post.

Just two minutes into the second half, Ashton were thrown a lifeline when Joel Brownhill went down under a challenge from Dean Stott in the Colne goalmouth and Brownhill fired home the resulting penalty to reduce the arrears to 3-1.

Ten minutes later, the Reds restored their cushion at 4-1 with an action replay of their first goal when Wharton scored at the near post with a back-heel from Hart’s corner kick.

Within five minutes, the visitors struck back again when Isaac Kusaloka took advantage of hesitancy in the Colne defence to fire home his side’s second.

But the hosts dispelled any doubts after 67 minutes when Spencer Jordan made it five before Hart completed his hat-trick to seal the points.

Colne are five points behind Linnets at the top but have two games in hand on the leaders, the first of which comes tonight when they travel to mid-table Winsford United.

Elsewhere on Saturday, second half goals from Arley Barnes and John Beckwith earned Barnoldswick Town a superb 2-0 away success at Bootle while Nelson were also winners. The Admirals scored five second half goals to defeat Winsford United 5-1 with Robert Grimes netting twice. Bradley Wicks, Oly Evans and Stephen Cassidy were also on target for the home side before Jordan Johnson scored a late consolation for Winsford.

Reece Pearce hit an 80th minute leveller for Padiham as the Storks drew 1-1 at home to Runcorn Town.

In the first division Bacup Borough continued their push for a play-off place with a resounding 7-0 win over Whitchurch Alport.

Matthew Bryan and Anthony Hall put the home side up before Matthew Barlow made it three from the penalty spot shortly before the interval.

Gareth Wager added a fourth six minutes after the break and before three goals in the final 20 minutes from Arron Kirk, Yves Zama and Adrian Bellamy completed the scoring.

Borough are now eighth in the table, two points off the top six but with up to four games in hand on some of their rivals.