SCOTT McGowan scored a hat-trick against his former team to help his current one take a significant step towards playing in the Macron Cup final.

1874 Northwich’s third win of the campaign against their Cheshire neighbours is their biggest and, perhaps, the most significant.

It was a landmark occasion too for their striker, who reached 100 goals in the club’s colours.

His tally in clashes with the Bears is 14.

However the visitors might have been playing catch-up had Dan Cope’s shot on 24 minutes crept in rather than striking the crossbar.

Instead Northwich took the lead after half an hour when Jack Pritchard, another former Congleton player, met Sam Hare’s free-kick with a firm header.

They moved further in front 60 seconds later when McGowan steered another set-piece into the net with his head.

Taylor Kennerley failed to hit the target in the moments before half-time when he dragged a shot wide after Hare teed him up.

McGowan was wasteful early in the second period when he sent a shot wide after Jamie McLellan had failed to intercept.

However he made up for that miss shortly afterwards when he was first to a loose ball after 1874 captain Matthew Woolley’s drive rebounded off goalkeeper Craig Ellison into his path.

And the alert front man was in the right position again when Pritchard’s header deflected his way and he poked in from close-range.

Paul Bowyer and Wayne Goodison, 1874’s management duo, replaced him with Sam Hind on the hour and supporters of both teams joined in with applause for his performance.

The visitors added gloss, extending an already huge advantage for the second game next weekend, when Kennerley drifted past tired defenders on the right before shooting low into the bottom corner of the net.

Congleton | Ellison (GK), Stephens, Peters, McLellan (Main 59), Morris, Speed, Hasler-Cregg, Warburton, Cope, Foster (Hunter 68), Adegbenro Subs not used Williams, Donnelly, Cooke (GK) Booked Peters, Speed

1874 | Aghayere (GK), Connor, Russell, Pritchard, Meadowcroft (Irlam 71), Jones, Koral, Matthew Woolley, McGowan (Hind 59), Hare (Smith 64), Kennerley Subs not used Waite-Jackson, Gardner Goals Pritchard 30, McGowan 31, 47, 58 Kennerley 76 Booked Russell, Hind

Referee Oliver Noonan

Attendance 296