MIDGLEY United boss Craig Gee believes Sowerby Bridge are favourites for the Haslem-Sheppard Halifax AFL title this season.
Gee’s table-toppers were beaten 3-0 by Bridge at Walton Street on Saturday, prompting the visitors’ experienced manager to write off his side’s chances of being champions and nominating Bridge as the likely winners.
”I think they are favourites to win it,” said Gee.
“Sowerby Bridge are a good team, very strong, and you have got to stand up to them. We lost one or two battles and got bullied in some areas.”
Midgley still have a six-point lead at the top but Sowerby Bridge, Shelf FC and Shelf United can all overhaul them if they win their games in hand.
“I think we are out of it to be honest. We have lost three and that is too many,” said Gee, whose side have also dropped vital points to lowly pair Denholme United and Ryburn United.
The first half of Saturday’s match was goalless with Gee believing his side had perhaps slightly shaded it in terms of chances.
However, two mistakes in quick success shortly after the restart allowed Bridge to take a stranglehold on the contest.
A mix-up between ‘keeper and a defender presented Tom Hiley with the opener and Damo Watkins made it two goals in three minutes when Midgley missed an opportunity to clear.
Dan Vile hit a post, Andy Butterworth hit the bar and Rob Stansfield had two efforts well saved for the visitors but Bridge retained their two-goal cushion and prolific marksman Watkins added a third from John Wilkinson’s good cross field ball with five minutes left.
Hebden Royd Red Star were replaced in second spot by Greetland, who beat them 3-1 at Mytholmroyd with Aaron Dorward scoring twice for the visitors.
Two second half goals from Matt Hartley gave reigning champions Shelf FC a 2-0 win away to Sowerby United.
The visitors started in determined fashion but some good defending by Sowerby and an inspired display from keeper Hayden Bruce kept Shelf at bay.
Hartley broke the deadlock in the 65th minute when a deflection from a defender fell into his path and he coolly finished.
The second came minutes later when a mix up in the home defence left him with a clear run to slot home.
Sowerby fought hard but lacked a cutting edge and Alex O’Keefe might have added to Shelf’s tally but his thunderous shot was brilliantly saved by man of the match Bruce.
Shelf United won 4-1 away to Denholme United, scoring three times during a 20 minute spell of good football in the second half.
Shelf had the benefit of the wind playing up the hill in a scrappy first half and got the only goal after 35 minutes when Ben Grech cut the ball back from the dead ball line for Luke O’Brien to place it into the net from near the penalty spot.
Denholme drew level 10 minutes after the break when Jonathan Farrell handled and Ross Parr scored from the spot.
Shelf improved and an Oliver Coates 20-yard effort into the top corner was followed by a Billy Grogan header from six yards and Jonny Butterfield’s smart turn and finish into the bottom corner.
Ethan Daly made two late saves from long-range shots as Denholme tried in vain to close the gap.
Bottom side Calder ‘76 finally broke their duck for the season at the 10th attempt and they did it in style with a 4-0 home win over Ryburn.
Boss Rob Kenworthy selected a young midfield of Anthony Bailey, James Redmond and 16-year-old Callum Cushing and they did him proud.
Some intricate play involving Cushing, Cartwright and Max Crossley led to Cartwright opening the scoring.
The second goal came when Crossley played a simple square ball to Allen, who mis-controlled with his left foot but made no mistake with his right.
Kenworthy felt the bright start had given his side a massive confidence boost and Calder added a third after half an hour when Crossley set up Redmond, who applied a good finish.
Allen hit a post after going through one-on-one but Crossley completed the scoring with an effort into the far corner.
Kenworthy has his own theory about why Calder often come good in the New Year. “There seems to be a bit more commitment. Perhaps everyone is skint after Christmas!”