Champs off to winning start

Daniel Dewick for Copley and James Adey for Midgley on Friday.
Daniel Dewick for Copley and James Adey for Midgley on Friday.
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George Bamford hit the target twice as champions Midgley United launched their title defence in the Haslem-Sheppard Halifax AFL with a 3-0 home win over Copley United on Friday.

It looked an ideal opener for Craig Gee’s men against a side which just beat the drop last season but Copley were far from pushovers, looking fit and strong and causing a few problems through Gary Ash.

Copley were first into their stride but Midgley eventually settled and James Balmforth beat the ‘keeper to the ball to open the scoring after 25 minutes.

Bamford hit the woodwork twice in the first half for the hosts but his luck changed dramatically on 55 minutes when his deflected strike looped over the ‘keeper.

Copley continued to have plenty of possession but were unable to penetrate and Midgley finished on top after Bamford’s smart finish into the top corner from 18 yards with 20 minutes left.

Stump Cross chased Midgley home last season and they opened with a 4-3 win in a feisty game away to promoted Sowerby Bridge.

Stump singled out Adam Barlow for special attention but he headed the hosts in front from a floated free-kick, only for Stump to equalise shortly after when stand-in ‘keeper Bolton palmed a cross into his own net.

After 25 minutes Bridge had Chris Punda dismissed for his second bookable offence in two minutes.

Stump went 2-1 up just before half time when Raijko Jovanovic fouled the lively Tom Hiley and Damian Watkins dispatched the penalty.

Lee Wood rose above a flat-footed Stump defence to head a bridge equaliser five minutes after the break but Stump, perhaps lucky to keep 11 men on the field, regained the lead against the run of play when a long ball from ‘keeper Alchin led to Steve Fullard turning a defender to smash home from the edge of the box.

Bridge didn’t buckle and Doyle made it 3-3 after a flowing move with 12 minutes to go but Stump pressed and Watkins stole in at the far post to grab the winner in the 90th minute, although there was still time for Barlow’s shot to be blocked on the line and defender Cook to blaze over.

Greetland worked hard for a 3-1 home win over Holmfield.

The hosts, with a number of new faces, were fast out of the blocks and although Scott McHale was denied early on they took the lead when skipper Matty Oldfield’s defence-splitting pass found the impressive Tom Wall, whose thunderbolt shot gave the ‘keeper no chance.

Last ditch defending denied Greetland until just before half time when Nathan Wallace sent Danny Dorward away his well struck cross was turned in by the Holmfield centre half after pressure from McHale.

Carl Ainley’s measured free kick from 25 yards made it 3-0 and Ellis Dixon, Jack Anderson and Dave Walker could have added to the tally but Holmfield never stopped battling and Mick Palethorpe gave them a consolation after a free kick had been tipped onto a post by Craig Taylor.

Last year’s Division one champions Hebden Royd Red Star warmed up for Friday’s Calder Valley derby against Midgley with a 2-0 win at King Cross Warley.

New signing Lewis Cockroft scored midway through the first half and centre half Matthew Oddy with a header from a corner midway through the second for a victory which boss Dave Whitehouse thought his side deserved.

Calder ‘76 and Elland United were involved in a 10-goal thriller which finished all square, Remi Allen scoring twice for the hosts and Mark Kelsey twice for Elland.

Ryburn United took time to find their feet with a new-look side against Sowerby United but eventually ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

Sowerby hit the post in a frenzied start but the home side’s new midfield of Reece Uttley, Chris Roy and Simon Whitton eventually settled and Uttley helped set up two goals in quick succession for James Lawton and then Whitton, who flicked the ball home from the edge of the box.

Sowerby deserved a goal for their efforts and Joe Swallow should have got them one with a header late on but by then Own Wilkinson had put the game out of reach with a lovely free-kick.

The Division one action was split over Friday and Saturday and the six games produced 45 goals with three matches producing nine each.

Salem hit nine without reply at home to Greetland Reserves, Ben Huson’s side quickly going 2-0 up through Nick Green and Liam Huson.

It was virtually all over by half time, Green having completed his hat-trick and Adam Gaze and newcomer Lee Worrall also hitting the target.

Salem’s dominance continued with central midfield duo Thomas Neville and Matty Horsfall pulling the strings and Green (two) and the impressive Adam Gaze took the home side further clear.

Denholme fought back from a 3-1 interval deficit to beat Northowram 5-4 at Foster Park.

The home side’s Paul Armitage set the tone for a high-scoring contest with a superb free-kick after five minutes but Danny Rushworth swept home an equaliser from close range and a composed Alex O’Keefe finish and a James Waggett penalty three minutes before half time put the Rams in the ascendancy.

However, Neil Roberts’s tidy side-foot finish from a deep cross made it 2-3 and slack defending allowed Dave Sanderson to race into the area and power his shot home.

Northowram regained the lead against the run of play when the ‘keeper’s attempted clearance hit Chris Dunne, leaving Chris Conroy with the easiest of tasks on 65 minutes.

A horrible miskick from Adie Hollands two yards out put the ball past keeper James Bunn to level the scores and Denholme got a deserved winner against fading opponents when Danny Moralee expertly side-footed home a free-kick.

Ryan Couple scored twice but Stainland had to settle for a 3-3 draw away to Elland Allstars while Shelf United started their quest to regain Premier status at the first time of asking with a 6-2 home win over Halifax Irish Centre.

They were 2-0 down at one stage facing the slope and breeze but got one back before half time and run away with the contest after the break with young frontrunner Ben Grech finishing with a hat-trick.

Greg Thomas’s four goals helped Volunteer Arms win 5-4 away to promoted Sowerby Bridge Reserves while Wadsworth United and Ryburn United Reserves fought out a 2-2 draw.

Promoted pair Spring Hall Celtic and Denholme United Reserves had mixed fortunes in their Division Two openers.

Celtic swept aside visitors Shelf United Reserves 8-2 with the help of three goals from the prolific Terriq Pervez but Denholme went down 2-1 away to Mixenden, who are looking to recover their first division status.

New side St Columbas were the only winners in three games in the third division last Saturday, running out 5-2 home winners against regular strugglers Salem Reserves.

Saints had conceded eight goals the previous Wednesday and although under the cosh for the first 15 minutes, they eventually took advantage of slipshod defending.

Ben Caldwell, Vinny O’Shea, Peter Connell and Andrew Sandells helped Saints lead 4-0 early in the second half but sub Arthur Smith got one back with his first touch and youngster Dan Waddington added Salem’s second with a well hit shot.

Zahid Hassan pulling off a series of good saves and Saints survived several goal mouth scrambles before Fabian Peart completed the scoring.