James Balmforth, a late call up for Haslem-Sheppard Halifax AFL title favourites Midgley United, scored two goals and took the man of the match award in his side’s 5-2 win over Sowerby United.
The leaders had a couple of setbacks when James Adey and Jason Cartlidge failed fitness tests and then doubts were raised about the eligibility of Ian Hudson, who started the season with Ovenden West Riding and hadn’t played for some time due to a bad head injury.
That led to an SOS to Balmforth, who was due to play for the reserves. He arrived in the nick of time and helped his side moved 10 points clear of inactive Stump Cross with a further two back to Ryburn United, who lost 2-0 at Greetland.
In spite of the disruption, Midgley got off to a flyer when Darren Nelson’s first minute corner was headed home by Andrew Butterworth at the back post.
Midgley pressed hard for more and were rewarded 10 minutes later when Tom Booth forced the ball home.
Sowerby steadied the ship and started asking questions of the Midgley defence with Joe Swallow and man of the match Corey Henderson to the fore. Swallow’s curling free kick bounced back off the bar but Harvey Walsh bravely dived in to head in the rebound.
Midgley hit the woodwork four times in the first half while Sowerby strived hard to conjure up a second goal.
Midgley went 3-1 up soon after the restart when Balmforth chipped the ‘keeper but Sowerby replied through Garry Boyd.
Booth struck again before Balmforth got Midgley’s fifth to take his side closer to honours.
Greetland produced a rock solid performance to see off Ryburn United 2-0 at a cold and blustery Goldfields.
The home side made a brisk start with Tom Wall and Danny Dorward lively in attack.
Tom Wall had a goal disallowed for offside but when the same player was brought down, after a good passing move involving Andy Hurcombe, Asa Lumb and Nathan Wallace, the resulting Carl Ainley free kick was smashed home by Adam Oldfield from close range.
Greetland could have scored again before the break. Jonny Crowther’s shot was deflected over the bar and a Dorward effort was narrowly wide.
Ryburn upped the pressure early in the second half but Greetland’s strong back four and keeper Craig Taylor stood firm.
The home side grew stronger as the game entered the latter stages and although Dorward was denied a penalty substitutes Ellis Dixon and Callum Dixon combined and Crowther’s neat flick enabled Ainley to score from 12 yards.
Revitalised champions Elland United struck twice late on to win 3-2 away to Calder ‘76 and add to their hosts’ concerns at the foot of the table.
Calder gifted Elland a goal after 10 minutes when goalkeeper Warren Clayton allowed the ball from Gav Fleming’s throw in to run across him but then slipped and Jake Bradbury was left with a tap-in.
Hayden Gee fired just wide before Calder equalised with a well-worked goal, Irfan Azfal and Steve Jones combining and Paul Ashman sending over a first time cross which Ricky Topham headed across the ‘keeper and into the net.
Matty McCambridge fired just over from long range but Calder got a second 10 minutes after the break through man of the match Jones after Stansfield had won a 50-50 ball in the middle.
Jones fired wide from a tight angle and Karl Wooliscroft struck a post before Vaughan Boon shot over at the other end with two men well placed to score.
Elland drew level from the penalty spot after a shot had struck Wooliscroft on the arm, Clayton getting a hand to the ball but being unable to keep it out, and the visitors’ big finish paid off when Mark Kelsey’s header was deflected past the ‘keeper.
Holmfield eased their relegation worries at Shelf United’s expense with a 5-2 home win.
Young striker Ben Grech produced thumping finishes to score first and last for the visitors but in between Holmfield were the stronger side on a heavy pitch and ex-Ovenden WR veteran Mick Palethorpe, playing up front bagged a hat-trick.
Danny Patchett’s back heel and Palethorpe’s first made it 2-1 to Holmfield at the break.
Palethorpe added a long range chip and an effort bent into the bottom corner after rounding the ‘keeper before Stefan Drakes completed Holmfield’s tally.
The Warley Rangers versus Stump Cross contest was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
Hebden Royd Red Star are hot favourites for the Division One title after beating only rivals Sowerby Bridge 3-2 in Saturday’s crunch clash at a boggy Hollins Mill Lane.
Goals from Eddy Harvey, Matthew Oddy and Ryan Thomas were enough to open up a four point lead over their opponents, but it took a performance of real character to grind out the victory.
Red Star raced into a two goal lead inside quarter of an hour. When a Joe Januszczyk cross from the left was inexplicably handled by Bridge’s Adam Barlow, Harvey calmly converted the penalty for his 13th goal of the season. Then, from a corner, Chris Garbutt’s header was cleared off the line but Danny Lumb hooked the ball back across goal and Oddy nodded home from close range.
Only a fine save denied Harvey before the hosts gradually clawed their way back into the game, putting the Star backline under increasing pressure with a series of corners and long throws.
It was from one such set piece that Barlow rose highest at a corner to pull a goal back a minute before the break.
Bridge carried that momentum into the second half with Rick Taylor and Barlow to the fore. Glynn Claxton raced from his line to make a fine save but midway through the half Oddy cleared long downfield, Thomas sprung the Bridge offside trap and the ball trickled over the line from his left footed effort.
Claxton parried a low shot destined for the bottom corner from Jimmy Sweeney, but the ball rebounded to Bridge substitute Michael Rigby, who tapped home.
In the remaining two minutes the hosts threw everything at Star and had a couple of penalty shouts turned down.
Despite a faltering second half performance, Northowram were comfortable 5-2 home winners against Volunteers to stay third.
They raced into a 4-0 half-time lead with some excellent football up the slope, making light of the difficult playing surface.
Chris Conroy played in Alex O’Keefe and his low finish from an acute angle went in off the post after seven minutes.
Although the visitors played some tidy football, with James Tagg causing problems down the left, the Rams were far more incisive and after O’Keefe had an effort blocked on the line, the same player doubled the advantage.
Conroy blew a golden opportunity but atoned after good work from O’Keefe and the busy Adam Ingham and got the fourth following a perfectly executed one-two with Chris Dunne.
Volunteers’ only clear chance came when James Bunn produced an excellent save but they had the upper hand after the break and were rewarded with goals from Ben Hardy and a Louis Kenny tap-in.
The visitors then had to ride their luck before substitute Danny King’s quality strike from distance in the last minute.
Elland Allstars goalkeeper Josh Bailes was a scorer in his side’s 4-3 home win over Salem.
Bailes’ big kick bounced over his opposite number’s head.
Teammate Connor Bell and Salem’s Nick Green each scored twice.
Halifax Irish Centre moved further clear of the bottom two courtesy of a 5-4 win at injury-hit Denholme United, Craig Eastwood scoring a hat-trick.
Irish took the lead on four occasions and each time the home side drew level until the visitors scored a clincher with 10 minutes left.
It was 2-2 at half time and Denholme then pressed down the Foster Park slope but too many of their efforts were straight at the ‘keeper.
Mark Hindle bagged a hat-trick as Greetland Reserves enjoyed a 10-2 romp away to their Shelf United counterparts.
Warley Rangers Reserves maintained their pursuit of inactive leaders Sowerby Bridge Reserves with a 5-1 win at Elland United Reserves while AFC Crossleys also won on the road, their 4-2 success against Halifax Athletic moving them up to third.
Shelf FC got back on track in Division Three after their defeat to Savile Arms the previous week, thumping bottom club Salem Reserves 9-1.
Shelf were soon on the front foot but centre backs Sean Neary and Steve Foy and ‘keeper Lloyd Brown foiling them for 15 minutes until Allie Conroy opened the scoring.
That was the first goal of three goals in three minutes. Louis Halstead equalised after great endeavour by Ricky Beaumont but Dan Phipps put the hosts back in front and before half time Gary Boldy made it 3-1.
The goals flowed for Shelf in the second half with Jack Hartley, Ben King (two), Phipps, Conroy and Boldy on target.
Skipper Rio Fox also scored at the third attempt, Brown keeping out his first two efforts, the first of them a spot kick.
Sub Mehmet Trapper’s speedy wing play carved out several chances for Salem, one for Kev Crossley leaving the cross bar shaking.
Referee Billy Payton kept the game flowing but Salem’s bad day was rounded off by icy showers.
Spring Hall Celtic are through to their first cup final after beating Calder ‘76 Reserves in an Invitation Cup semi-final of fluctuating fortunes.
Calder had won a recent Division Three meeting 1-0 but a much-changed Celtic side charged into a 4-0 lead at Natty Lane, playing some excellent football.
Calder got it back to 4-3 after 75 minutes with goals from Paul Clayton, Marc Walters and assistant boss Simon Raphael but Celtic got the crucial next goal and deservedly booked a date with Sowerby Bridge Reserves.