Evesham Utd 3, Paulton Rvrs 1

THE top three sides in Division One West boast the section's most potent dual strike forces and Richard Ball and Jermaine Clarke certainly gave their attacking pedigree another boost last Saturday, writes Mervyn Collins.

The pair shared the three goals - all different in implementation but clinical when it came to finding the net.

Ball's 61st minute opener was just what the patient fans needed after an hour of lacklustre attacking but Clarke's solo strike nine minutes from time lifted everyone both on and off the pitch.

Fingernails were being chewed again a minute later when Stuart Hamilton inadvertently turned a cross past Tim Clarke but Ball's thumping 84th minute header sealed a fourth straight win for Dave Busst's unchanged side who again were in the ascendancy throughout.

Had Clarke not shot a foot wide in the second minute when he had more time and only Paulton keeper John Rendell to beat then the Robins would almost certainly have improved their goal difference even more as a goal certainly seems to light the blue touchpaper!

Clarke and Simon Fitter both shot wide before goalkeeper Clarke excelled at the opposite end when an otherwise solid rearguard was breached down the right and Steve Tweedle saw his close-range shot beaten out.

Rendell clutched Grant Pinkney's shot from distance and Ball shot wide before the pair combined to finally break the deadlock when the latter volleyed in the flank man's cross in fine style.

Steve Duncan and Steve Hands both saw Rendell block headers but the keeper was helpless to intervene when Clarke took on three defenders - twice - and, when he had wriggled clear, a swerving drive sent the net bulging for a second time.

The net wasn't touched when Hamilton diverted the ball into his own net past his scrambling goalkeeper but it was sent billowing backwards when Ball's powerful header tied up maximum points for the fifth time this year.

The goal made it seven in nine matches for the striker, while destroyer-in-chief Clarke has now netted four times in eight matches since teaming up with the ex Sutton Coldfield man.

It's 30 goals between them and it's their form in front of goal that could make the difference between the play-offs and promotion.

Manager Busst has always maintained that it's clean sheets that win leagues and that's 15 in the league this season - a 50 per cent shutout record!

Hamilton's influence at the back has been magnificent since he came into the side seven games ago, while Hands and Anthony Watson rarely put a foot wrong.

Skipper Gavin O'Toole, Duncan, Fitter and Simeon Williams all battled tremendously in midfield, while it was nice to see Pinkney back to something like his best down the left on an afternoon when United again sent their fans home happy.