In-form Elland step up their title challenge

With just three Saturdays remaining, the outcome of the Haslem-Sheppard Halifax & District AFL Premier Division title race is still no clearer.

Third-placed Elland United, who made it seven league wins on the bounce when they beat Stump Cross on Wednesday evening, are possibly starting to look favourites for the title.

They do, however, face a hectic run in with tomorrow’s meeting with AFC Crossleys the first of six games in the last two weeks of the season.

Carlton Balmer hit six goals in last week’s emphatic win over relegation threatened Holmfield and was on target again in the 3-1 midweek win..

Balmer and Mark Kelsey have bagged 30 goals between them this season - just the return sides need from their strikers.

AFC Crossleys will be hard pressed to hold Elland in the form they are in, but at their best could push the title hopefuls all the way.

Leaders Ryburn United host Holmfield knowing they must win their remaining two games to have any chance of becoming champions.

Points in the bag could still be enough to see Ryburn home with both second placed Warley Rangers and Elland United still playing catch up.

A win tomorrow and a win in their last game against Stump Cross would see 50 points the target to beat for the new champions.

Warley Rangers host Shelf United. The first meeting between the pair went the way of Shelf way back in November and Neil Grogan’s men will be well aware of the dangers Shelf have with goal machine Paul Andrew and inspirational skipper Danny Thornton capable of causing problems to any side.

Rangers endured a nervous 4-2 victory over Calder 76 in midweek to maintain their 100 per cent home record.

The visitors side started the better of the sides and were ahead in the first five minutes through Irfan Afzal’s close range finish.

It would have been 2-0 minutes later but for Brian Matthews’ goal line clearance from Simon Rapheal’s header.

That appeared to kick Warley into gear and Chris Hall and Andrew Zoledziejewski helped them ease back into the game.

They were level after half an hour when Matt Bodkin’s cross was left by Brian Matthews for Matthew Chapman, who fired home.

And two minutes later Chapman latched onto John Brownridge’s through ball to put his side ahead.

Chapman was denied a first half hat-trick by a save from Calder keeper Heckingbottom and Andy Hudson almost made it three on the stroke of half time but volleyed wide from six yards.

As a scoreless second half drew to a close Warley became more nervous and Calder could sense an opportunity.

Rab Langley tipped a shot over the bar before Ben Clayton scored to equalise with eight minutes left.

Manager Grogan threw players forward and with five minutes left Paul Kendall lashed home a 20-yard half volley and top scorer Matt Bodkin sealed Calder’s fate in the final minute when he fired home through a crowd of players.

Stump Cross have seen their title hopes vanish. Tomorrow they host a Sowerby United side fighting for their top flight lives.

Stainland United now look doomed and travel to Calder 76 knowing that anything less than a win will send them down.

Midgley United’s win at Copley United last week put them back in the driving seat in the race for the first division title.

It could still mean Midgley have to win their remaining two games against Mixenden United tomorrow and at Ryburn United Reserves the week after.

Volunteer Arms are finishing with a flourish and could get a top three finish if other results go their way and they win their remaining three games.

The first of those is a meeting with a Northowram side that has been suffering with injuries recently.

Ryburn United Reserves travel to Hebden Royd Red Star Reserves and can return home with a win.

Brighouse OB visit Halifax Irish Centre where they may find it tough despite the hosts being out of sorts lately.

Second division champions Wadsworth United end their fine season with a trip to Shelf United Res and it should see them gain a 14th win of the campaign.

Warley Rangers Reserves are finishing with a good run and could win again when they take on Greetland Reserves.