Inverurie Locos boss Neil Cooper hailed captain Neil McLean for his fantastic display in their 4-0 win over Rothes.
The skipper netted twice as the Railwaymen saw off the Speysiders at Harlaw Park.
The victory takes Locos level on points with Cove Rangers at the top of the Highland League, however, the Aberdeen side have a superior goal difference and five games in hand.
Cooper said: “It was a difficult game and I thought Rothes did well and made us work really hard.
“We had a lot of the ball and we had chances that we didn’t take. But the first goal from Neil McLean I wasn’t expecting at all. I thought he was just away to play a pass and then I’m thinking ‘what’s he trying?’
“But he saw the chance to put it over the goalkeeper and it was a great finish.
“Jordan Leyden fed a great pass into Neil Gauld and he whipped it in on his right foot off the crossbar and post for the second. But 2-0 is never enough, we persevered and got the third goal from a corner.
“We couldn’t see if it was in, but the linesman was on the line and he said it was over so it was great for us. It gave us an extra cushion and then we got a fourth at the end of the game.
“Neil’s been like that all season and so have all the boys.
“We’ve got four games left and we’re looking to get a top-four position cemented and then try to get that second spot.
“We want to finish the season on a high and the boys are doing that.”
The only negatives for Locos were that striker Andy Hunter and defender Ryan Broadhurst had to come off with suspected groin and hip injuries.
Cooper added: “We’ll have to assess them, but Ryan got a knee on his hip and Andy’s was his groin.
“We’ll see over the next 48 hours, but with no game at the weekend we’ve got time to assess it and get proper treatment.”
Inverurie were dominant in the opening half hour with Rothes keeper Darren McConnachie saving well from Gauld, Hunter and Leyden.
The opener came on 36 minutes when McLEAN lobbed McConnachie with a brilliant strike from inside the Rothes half of the centre circle.
Just before the break it was 2-0 when GAULD curled into the top right corner from just inside the left edge of the box.
In the second period Greg Mitchell hit a post from 25 yards and Gauld missed from close range.
But McLEAN made it three on 80 minutes when his inswinging corner from the left went straight in. Stephen Rennie headed clear, but ref Will Smith ruled it had crossed the line.
In injury time, a Gauld back-heel set up sub Chris ANGUS to drill in the fourth.