Ross strikes the only goal in University of Exeter's win
University of Exeter resumed the second half of the Men's Hockey League season in the way they finished the first, in winning form.
A 62nd-minute penalty-corner strike by Andrew Ross proved to be the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory at University of Birmingham as Exeter kept their sights on top spot.
Victory keeps third-placed Exeter within two points of Men's Conference West leaders Cardiff and UWIC, who required a last-minute Dafydd Tomos goal to win 2-1 at basement side Firebrands.
Despite a cold start in February, it is hotting up at the top of the table, with just four points separating the top four teams and only seven games remaining.
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Next Sunday, Exeter return home to face fifth-placed Fareham at the University's Sports Park (12.30pm), while leaders Cardiff face another away day, at Birmingham.
It is as you were at the Women's Conference West summit, with leaders Buckingham powering to their 11th successive win – 4-0 over Firebrands – to surge 12 points clear.
Second-placed Trojans, of Southampton, were held to a 1-1 draw by Isca University in the shoot-out of the division's top scorers, Claire Thomas and Sally Gibson.
Isca skipper Thomas – a student at the University of Exeter – remains top of the division's scoring charts after claiming her 13th goal of the season.
Thomas, from North Devon, swooped to convert Zoe Burrell's cross and give the Exeter side a 1-0 39th-minute lead in Southampton.
However a 58th-minute wonder strike from Trojans' dangerous top-scorer Gibson levelled matters and took her impressive goal tally to 11 in 11 games.
Isca slipped to fourth in WCW, a point behind Trojans and third-placed Gloucester City, who pipped second-placed Staines 3-2.
Isca's next game is as near as it gets to a derby with a relatively short trip to Taunton Vale on Saturday (1.30pm).
Vale – promoted from the West Clubs Women's Hockey League last summer – remain bottom of WCW following a 6-0 defeat at fifth-placed Swansea City on Sunday.
Isca won the corresponding home fixture 5-0 last September.
Second-placed University of Exeter A won the Davis Wood Hockey League top of the table clash by beating leaders Isca 2-1.
Sam Plater and Sam Ward scored for Mark Siddorn's side, who are five points behind their Exeter rivals with two matches in hand.
Promotion favourites Isca remain ten points clear of Bristol side Robinsons, in third place.
University of Exeter A cannot gain promotion as their first team already play in the national league.
Promotion-chasing Exe still top the West Clubs Women's Hockey League by four points following a hard-fought 2-0 win at sixth-placed Yate, earned by goals from Louise Cossey and Laura Allen.