HAILSHAM Town earned promotion back to Sussex County Football League Division One at the first attempt in style.
Shane Saunders scored a hat-trick for the second successive Division Two game as the Stringers clinched the point they needed to make sure of a top three finish with a 5-0 win over bottom-of-the-table opposition.
Hailsham made a bright start at a damp Beaconsfield on Saturday and took the lead after 12 minutes when Saunders flicked the ball on for Danny Leach to fire home from close range.
With time ticking away in the first half, though, Hailsham did score again when an excellent Ryan Alexander cross was met by the diving head of Saunders.
That man Saunders bagged his second just after the break. The in-form striker chased onto a ball through the middle to prod beyond the onrushing goalkeeper.
On 63 minutes Alexander was again the provider, with Jamie Salvidge running in to meet his cross with a powerful far post header.
Town continued to apply the pressure on an increasingly slippery pitch. Substitute Ben Billings headed against the bar, but on 79 minutes, the day was capped with Saunders’ third and Hailsham’s fifth.
Leach rounded the goalkeeper before returning the favour from the first goal by unselfishly squaring for Saunders to slide the ball in from close range.
Saunders is now up to 20 goals in the league this season, while Leach has drawn level with East Preston’s George Gaskin at the top of the division’s goalscoring charts with 32.
With promotion now sealed, Hailsham need 10 points from their final six games to make absolutely sure of finishing second.
They are currently nine points ahead of third-placed Dorking Wanderers
Three of Hailsham’s next four fixtures are on home soil, starting with the visit of third-bottom Midhurst & Easebourne on Saturday. Kick-off is 3pm.