Title hopefuls made to battle
Ryburn United and Calder '˜76 both banked another three points on Saturday in their Halifax AFL title head-to-head.
Ryburn, who are playing catch-up with their rivals and simply dare not slip, were given a searching examination away to Northowram.
However, a Christian Silkstone hat-trick saw them through to a 3-2 win in a rugged and sometimes bad-tempered affair.
Silkstone, always dangerous, had the only chance in the opening 20 minutes but shot wide. He won a soft penalty soon after and put his side ahead from the spot.
Playing up the slope, the Rams were soon on terms when Chris Conroy picked out Mark Eade wide left and his run and precise left foot finish from a narrow angle was no more than the home side deserved.
Silkstone restored the lead inside half an hour after some tidy first-time passing.
Macaulay Peacock wasted a good chance for the visitors and Rams’ Eade rounded the keeper but his shot was kicked off the line.
Chris Dunne went close and Eade fired wide while only a superb one-handed save by James Bunn kept out Silkstone’s point-blank header.
Silkstone’s diving header made it 1-3 with 10 minutes left but Eade prodded home to ensure United had to work hard until the end.
Calder retained their 12 point lead, from three games more, with a 3-0 home win over Shelf United.
However, it was not as comfortable as the score suggests with the first half a real battle.
Ricky Topham gave Calder the boost of an early goal, after being released by Steve Jones, but the home side were unable to kick on in a scrappy opening 45 minutes in which both sides had a few chances.
Calder were much better after the break and doubled their advantage when Remi Allen, who had squandered a couple of opportunities, scored a fine solo goal.
Harry Talbot twice went through one-on-one with ‘keeper Warren Clayton but was unable to get Shelf back into the match.
Calder got their third entering the closing stages with a fine team goal starting with Clayton and involving Ben Fairburn, captain for the day Simon Stansfield, Jones and Allen before Max Crossley tapped home at the far post.
Midgley United ended a five-match run without a win when they came out on top by 3-1 away to Copley United at Shroggs Park.
The visitors started strongly and went in front after half an hour when Rob Stansfield laid the ball off for Liam Brompton to produce a good finish into the bottom corner.
Gary Ash showed persistence in the penalty area to make it 1-1 after 55 minutes but Andrew Butterworth restored Midgley’s lead with 20 minutes left, chipping the keeper from some way out after good work from Jonny Cockroft and Stansfield.
A Stansfield header from close range sealed Midgley’s win.
Sowerby United beat Brighouse Sports 3-1 in a pulsating game to boost their hopes to beating their visitors for second spot in Division One.
After a fairly even opening, Brighouse went ahead with a good goal from Nathan Shaw, who scored with a curling effort into the top corner from near the touchline.
Sowerby pressed hard to get on terms and did so in the final action of the first half, Dan Crosland rising highest to send a bullet header into the roof of the net from a corner.
Sowerby were on the front foot now with Corey Henderson causing problems. Brighouse threatened on the break but the outstanding Ben Broadbent and two fine saves from Martin Schofield kept them at bay.
The home side went ahead when a fine pass from James Clegg sent Matthew Whitworth racing forward and the mini marvel bravely beat the keeper.
Sowerby made the game safe when Henderson fired home after another mazy run.
Referee Andy Kay deserved credit for his display in what was a fine advert for local football.
Nobody really expected 100 per cent side Illingworth St Mary’s to falter away to bottom team Halifax Irish Centre and they won 9-0 with four goals from John Booth and two each from Brandon Field and Phil Livesey.
Calder ‘76 Reserves returned home from Denholme United in a fairly buoyant mood in spite of a 4-1 defeat.
The third-from-bottom side played well against bang-in-form hosts at Foster Park but had only a Nathan Dempsey goal to show for their efforts.
Matthew Waring scored twice for Denholme, who have taken 19 points out of a possible last 21.
Sowerby Bridge, also in decent form, won 4-1 at Salem with two goals from Lee Wood.
The goals flowed at Ripponden Wood where five goals from Lewis Brierley helped Ryburn United to an 8-5 home win over AFC Crossleys.
Division Two leaders St Columba’s dropped two points in a 2-2 draw away to Sowerby Bridge Reserves.
They took the lead after good link up play between Frank Odion and skipper Ryan O’Neill, who fired home from the edge of the area.
Saints were giving away lots of free kicks in dangerous positions and were made to pay by Scott Hibbert’s 25 yarder.
Shortly afterwards an inswinging corner caused confusion and the ball ricocheted off the back of O’Neill and into his own net.
The visitors came out strongly in the second half and won a penalty which was missed by Vinny O’Shea.
Play became scrappy but Saints drew level when O’Neill turned smartly in the box and forced the ball home at the near post.
In a frantic finish, manager Chris Stansfield headed narrowly wide for Saints, who will have an anxious eye on other results as they wait two weeks for their final game.
Illingworth St Mary’s Reserves got back to winning ways, beating Sowerby United Reserves 2-0 in a tight game.
Sowerby had much the better of the first half but found centre halves Dale Cartwright and Kyle Butler in fine form.
Saints lost Josh Langan and Tom McGregor to injury and it was against the run of play when they took the lead, Jack Pullen firing home from a great through ball by Jimmy Smith.
Moments later Smith bundled the ball over the line to make it 2-0 at the break.
The teams cancelled each other out in the second half but Saints were thankful for a couple of fine late saves from Tony Clarke in a game well refereed by Dave Cartwright.
Andy Hurcombe scored a hat-trick as second-placed Greetland Reserves maintained their title bid with a 4-1 home win over Salem Reserves.
Hebden Royd Red Star Reserves and Shelf United Reserves remain ninth and 10th, separated by four points, after fighting out a 2-2 draw.