PICTURES: Hopeman beat Aberlour Villa to return to top of Moray welfare football league
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CHAMPIONS Hopeman started the post-split Moray welfare fixtures with a victory to put them back on top.
Tied on points with Buckie United at the summit before kick-off, Hopeman took advantage of their rivals not having a game by defeating Aberlour Villa to move three points clear.
Graeme Ingram had an effort cleared off the line for the home side on four minutes.
But the same player opened the scoring on what proved to be a good night for him by netting on the turn from Chris Cooper's free kick.
Gary Burr and Ingram missed opportunities to increase the home lead while at the other end Marcus Morrison mis-kicked after getting clear of the home defence.
It was no surprise when Hopeman went 2-0 up on 18 minutes, Ingram heading home Ryan Farquhar's cross.
Glen Fraser saved well from David Blackhall as Villa looked for a way back in the game, while solid Hopeman defending kept their opponents at bay.
But four minutes before the break, Aberlour did get reward for their endeavours when Marc Winchester hit a good dipping free-kick from 25 yards over Fraser into the net.
The Hopeman keeper had to turn away a dangerous Morrison cross to avert the threat of an equaliser before half time.
Just after the break, Morrison capitalised on a defensive error to go through but fired wide, and this served as a warning to Hopeman that victory was not yet secure.
Within five minutes they increased their lead, Farquhar scoring at the second attempt.
Farquhar was denied by a good Paul Robertson stop while sub Connel Gresham also tested the Villa keeper with a lob.
Gresham was causing Aberlour plenty problems and twice came close to scoring, before Farquhar won a penalty on 85 minutes which Ingram converted to complete his hat-trick.
There was still time for Gresham to get his name on the scoresheet, collecting a poor Robertson kick out to fire home and complete a 5-1 win.
The Lossiemouth derby was won by the airmen for the second time this season.
RAF Lossiemouth struck three times in the first half to leave Lossie Youths chasing the match.
The first came in the 29th minute from a corner which Ryan O'Halloran rose above his marker to bullet home.
Two minutes later some loose passing in the Youths defence was punished by Josh Taylor, who took a touch and calmly curled the ball home.
Logan Buick then received the ball 25 yards from goal and took two touches before lobbing the keeper.
In a closer second half, Buick set up Taylor for a fourth RAF Lossie goal.
The Youths got a consolation goal on the hour through Kyle Stewart's deflected effort.
In the bottom half, Cullen just edged out Portsoy in a local derby.
Cullen started the game well, and took the early lead when Kieran Ferguson got his head to a long James Maliska throw and glanced it into the far corner of the net.
Portsoy found an equaliser midway through the half, with Stuart Flett heading in from a corner kick.
Cullen almost regained the lead soon after, Iain Mair hitting the crossbar from yet another header.
The home side did go back in front when Sam Mair broke into the box and struck a post, before Ferguson smashed the rebound home for his second.
Both teams spurned gilt-edged chances after the break and Portsoy had Declan McKay sent off for a second yellow card for dissent.
However, that spurred the away side on as Cullen got too relaxed, and Portsoy were unlucky not to recover something from the game.
Cullen had a chance to calm the nerves after being awarded a penalty, only for Paul Coull to blaze over the bar.
A string of excellent saves from home goalkeeper Neil Watt at the other end denied Portsoy a share of the spoils as Cullen held on for victory.