AMATEUR football was once again the loser on Saturday, after a week's rain forced the cancellation of almost the entire Carlsberg West Cheshire League fixture programme for the second week in succession.

Of the 24 games scheduled, only three were played to a conclusion, but all three results impacted on the current league situations in Divisions One and Three.

Fortunately, with the mild weather enjoyed up and till the turn of the year, the fixture secretary's problems may not be as bad as first thought, as the majority of clubs have already completed over half of their fixtures.

Saturday's two Division One fixtures carried interest for different reasons, as one affected the top of the table and the other was an important relegation issue.

Runaway Division One leaders Maghull saw their 21-point lead at the top pruned back to 18, after December's manager of the month, Jim Doran, inspired second-placed Hale to a 6-0 rout of Chester visitors Blacon YC.

The leaders' advantage will take some pegging back, but with two games in hand, Hale are better placed than the rest to mount an assault.

Doubles from Sean Wright and big Wayne Smith were supplemented by further efforts from Carl Latham and a Josh Doran penalty as Hale secured their 12th win from 20 starts.

At the other end of the table, the Chester derby between bottom club Upton AA and local rivals Christleton went ahead in Arctic conditions, and following a good contest, it was Christleton who profited and as a result, climbed from 14th to tenth place, six points clear of the relegation zone.

Defensive lynch pin Anthony Mills had an excellent game for the visitors who posted a 4-2 victory, courtesy of efforts from Simon Thelwell-Wilson, (2) Josh Williams and George Rogers.

The hard-working Nathan Mapletoft and Chris Melia bagged the hosts' consolations, as Upton suffered their tenth defeat of the season.

The advantage of playing on a G4 artificial surface was to Rainhill Town's advantage, after the Division Three leaders turned a 1-0 deficit into a 5-1 triumph and raced ten points clear at the top.

Kyle Ross gave St Helens Town Reserves the lead before replies from Matt Dooling and Dan Leather saw the leaders go in at the interval 2-1 up.

Leather then completed his hat-trick before Dave Montieth plundered his 30th goal of the season. All games in the Wirral Sunday League were cancelled due to water-logging.