CIRENCESTER TOWN moved back to the top of the table with their fifth successive win and the fate of the title is now in their hands – they hold a three-point lead over both Merthyr Town and Tiverton Town with all three sides having to play just two more games.
Calor Div One South & West
Mangotsfield United 2
Cirencester Town 3
Again it was a skilful and spirited display on the road, as they twice led by two goals against a Mangotsfield side that included four former Cirencester captains.
And yet there were some nervy moments at the finish after recent signing Lewis Sommers made the score 3-2 in the 89th minute.
Ciren's preparations were rocked by the midday withdrawal through illness of centre back Matt Pritchett who has been so influential in both boxes over recent weeks.
Ellis Dunton moved across to centre half from left back and the versatile Aidan Bennett, who has been doing so well as a central striker slotted in at left back.
Joe Shepherd took on the central striker role and Ben Wells started in midfield – his first start since picking up a serious knee injury in the pre-season friendly against Cheltenham Town.
After a bright start by the Mangos, Cirencester began to gain the initiative and Wells announced his comeback in the 33rd minute with one of his deliciously curling trademark free kicks, which left Kevin Sawyer rooted to the spot as it bent into the top corner.
Five minutes later Cirencester increased their lead when Shepherd won the ball in the centre circle and released Steve Davies. Some neat interplay with his strike partner Lee Smith resulted in an opportunity for Davies to the right of the penalty spot, and his shot squirmed past Sawyer and trickled over the line.
Mangotsfield almost pulled one back when former Ciren skipper Jamie Reid crashed a 30-yard effort against the bar in the second half but they did force their way back in the game in the 71st minute when Leigh Henry caught Darren Edwards in the box and Neil Arndale, another former Ciren captain, calmly buried the spot kick.
But just four minutes later Ciren restored their two-goal cushion. Jody Bevan who had replaced Wells just before the Mangotsfield goal, cleverly slipped Smith clear down the centre of the pitch and the visitors' No.1 predator calmly scored his 31st league goal of the season (36 in all competitions).
Mangotsfield threw caution to the wind in a frantic finish and the pressure built after Sommers late strike, but Ciren were able to hang on
Cirencester Town: Garner, Hooper, Dunton, Wells (Bevan, 69), Liddiard, Henry (capt), Shepherd, Mortimer-Jones, Bennett, Davies, Smith. Unused subs: Bromley, Anson.