WHAT a return! Pete Smith played his first game back at Great Harwood and scored four goals to boost their NWCL Division Two promotion chances.
Smith, who plays regularly for Kendal in the UniBond League, is in his second spell at the Showground and has agreed to turn out when he can as he is friends with manager John Hughes - and players can play in two different leagues.
And Hughes was more than impressed with the 37-year-old on his 'debut' in their 6-2 win over bottom club Castleton Gabriels on Monday night.
"I asked him to play for us when he could and told him to show the young kids what he can do - and he certainly did that!" said Hughes.
And, after four defeats, the win prepares Harwood nicely for a local derby at Padiham on Saturday (ko 3pm).
"It was good to get a win under our belts - we will go to Padiham with confidence now. We did need it though.
"I made a few changes with Pete coming in and Brian Fogarty, who has been at Bamber Bridge and is coming back from injury. And they worked."
Smith's four came in the 35th, 41st, 50th and 88th minutes. In between Neil Zarac scored his third goal in four games on 38 minutes and Paul Mashiter got a goal in the 43rd minute in front of a crowd of 113.
"I know Castleton are really struggling but it was one of our best performances of the season," enthused Hughes. "We tried to play football - we weren't battling or just kicking it up front but passing it around."
It was a boost for Harwood after they lost to Division One side Ramsbottom in the League Challenge Cup quarter-final on Saturday.
It was looking good at 0-0 at half time but then Mark Stewart opened the scoring for the Riverside team on 47 minutes. They then had a great chance to go two-up but Harwood keeper Bobby Harris did well to keep out Gareth Gardiner's penalty.
Harwood then had Neil Kennedy sent off for a second bookable offence and, soon after, Gardiner fired the Rams into a 2-0 lead.
However, Hughes was impressed with the never-say-die attitude of his ten men as Zarac pulled a late goal back and then, in injury time, Mashiter came close to forcing extra-time but was denied by the Rams keeper.
"We had four or five chances when we were down to ten men to win it," said Hughes. "But we didn't take them. I am disappointed we are out of the cup. We did play well but came out with nothing - but that is football."
Harwood, though, are still in the Division Two Trophy and take on Darwen in a two-legged affair with the first game on Friday, 13 February.