A devastating 15-minute hat-trick from Preston Hockey Club forward Ben Heywood sealed a 5-1 triumph for Preston as they saw off the threat of bottom-of-the-table Leek.
The visitors came to West Cliff in search of their first National Conference North points of the season.
And they got off to the best possible start as Richard Cordon netted his and his team’s first goal of this league campaign in the seventh minute.
Preston started the day sitting third in the table and went into the game as favorites.
However, with the onus on the home team to perform, it became an open and – at times – nervous first 20 minutes.
With the away side taking the early advantage, chances were created by both teams, Preston pushing hard and Leek defending deep and relying on counter-attacks.
The home defence, marshalled by goalkeeper Matt Potts, kept the deficit to one, repelling both open-play attempts as well as a number of penalty corners.
Those defensive efforts were repaid when, in the 28th minute a Leek penalty corner was charged down by defender Tom Kerry who, catching the opposition on the break, moved the ball down to the opposing end to allow Sam Sinclair to slot the equaliser home against an outnumbered defensive unit.
With the scores level, Preston regained composure and, cheered on by another strong home crowd, were able to continue to apply pressure.
It was Preston that finished the first half in the ascendancy, dominating possession and limited only by the experienced Leek defence.
The half ended and stand-in coach James Sutcliff took the opportunity to calm his players.
As the umpires signalled to get the second half under way, Preston launched themselves into a spectacular 15-minute spell which saw them take the lead and kill off the game courtesy of in-form forward Ben Heywood.
From the starting whistle Preston, via midfielders Julian Lopez and Dave Greenough, cut through the opposition before teeing up Heywood to smash home his second goal of the season.
Aggrieved by what they thought was a Preston infringement in the build-up, Leek appeared rattled and the Whites pounced on their opportunity.
Five minutes later, Heywood grabbed his second, breaking free thanks to an accurate long ball from Joe Kulbacki.
The Leek goalkeeper blocked the initial effort but a fortuitous bounce and a delicate first touch helped Heywood on his way to his team’s third of the afternoon.
Aggrieved again by the umpire’s decision-making, Leek had their goalkeeper Mark Brazier sin-binned for his protests.
By that stage the fizz had been taken out of the game and Preston were able to ease home to the win.
Heywood completed his deserved hat-trick in the 51st minute with a calmly-taken finish made possible by an outrageous aerial pass from Lopez.
And the rout was completed six minutes from time as David Sullivan opened his account for the season with a powerful finish as Preston moved up to second in the table.