Diego De Girolamo treble against Radcliffe extends lead at top for Buxton as title rivals falter again

Diego De Girolamo nails his first half hat trick against Radcliffe.Diego De Girolamo nails his first half hat trick against Radcliffe.
Diego De Girolamo nails his first half hat trick against Radcliffe.
A first half hat-trick by top scorer Diego De Girolamo saw Buxton beat visiting Radcliffe 3-0 to extend their lead at the top of the NPL Premier table to four points as closest rivals South Shields and Matlock Town could earn only one point between them, writes Tony Tomlinson.

It was a fourth double of the season and De Girolamo now has six goals in just three starts since his return from his three-month injury lay-off.

His first two goals, on 18 and 24 minutes, were crafted from the same mould.

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With little threatening in either approach play, he created enough space, at virtually the same spot and from a standing start on each occasion, to thunder two magnificent drives from 20 yards into the roof of the net past the experienced Cameron Belford, who on both occasions had time only to move his head.

His third goal was a well-struck penalty-kick beyond the goalkeeper's reach, just as added time was about to begin.

The award had been made in favour of Jamie Ward, who had advanced from the right flank only to be brought down as he tried to work his way between two defenders.

Yet other than these memorable strikes, the game was not one of the best, with Buxton virtually in total command at the back but in attack frustrated by opponents who arguably prevented the hosts from stringing together their trademark passing sequences while creating little themselves.

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However, in the 12th minute Radcliffe did fashion the first clear opening as Bobby Grant's dangerous, curling centre found Fleetwood loanee McMillan, but his 12-yard header was directed at goalkeeper Theo Richardson.

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Just short of the half-hour, the visitors had another opportunity. From a lofted free-kick Thornley's cushioned header set up a 15-yard shot by ex-Barrow striker Hindle that passed wide.

Apart from De Girolamo's goals, Buxton in possession only rarely touched their best form but between the first two goals there was an eye-catching move.

Richardson struck a splendidly accurate, diagonal free-kick, Matt Curley headed on to Ward, whose run to the by-line forced a corner-kick.

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Later in the half Chris Dawson, who recently has twice struck the goal-frame with superb strikes, was again out of luck. Close to goal he charged down a Belford attempted clearance but the ball ran narrowly wide.

Radcliffe made three interval substitutions and enjoyed rather more possession thereafter but unsung yet excellent home defenders Matt Curley and Dan Cowan were prominent in denying the visitors any joy.

Meanwhile, the Bucks went close to adding more goals.

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Ward, fed by Curley from the right, and Warren Clarke, fed by Tommy Elliott from the left, both delivered low centres that ran across the face of goal without the requisite touch being applied.

Then just past the hour Clarke's pace took him round Belford close to goal and the by-line so all he could manage was a neat flick that again sent the ball across the face to safety.

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A lofted Elliott corner offered hope of another goal as Cowan met the ball but powered his header high and wide.

At the Ashwood end the home defence stood sound and kept a clean sheet for the fourth time in the last five outings.

South Shields' 1-1 draw at Basford was their sixth consecutive away fixture without victory - three draws and three defeats.

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Matlock's last gasp 1-0 home defeatby Atherton means Town have won just one in eight and trail the Bucks by six points, though have a game in hand.

On Saturday Matlock have a tasty 'Derbyshire derby' at Mickleover, while Buxton face the challenge of a visit to Whitby Town.