The scales tipped firmly back in Midgley United’s favour in the Haslem-Sheppard Halifax AFL title race on Saturday.
Stump Cross’s hopes of catching them had been raised the previous weekend but Midgley’s 3-0 home win over strugglers Copley United and Stump’s 3-3 draw away to a determined Warley Rangers side changed all that.
Midgley went six points clear again, with three matches left to Stump’s four, after a positive response to the ending of their 39-match unbeaten league run by Calder ‘76.
Midgley dominated the first half against Copley but had only Jason Cartlidge’s tap-in midway through it to show for their efforts.
George Bamford doubled the lead five minutes into the second half, getting on the end of a Ryan Jeffries pass and holding off a defender before turning and drilling the ball home.
Bamford made the points safe from a Carlidge knock-down midway through the half.
Stump came up against a Warley Rangers side who had been challenged by boss Neil Grogan to show their mettle after a poor display in their previous match.
They did just that in spite of only having 11 players, with Grogan keen not to weaken the promotion-gunning reserves,
Jonny Burston gave Warley the lead after 20 minutes, cutting inside and beating the keeper with a shot which failed to bounce as expected.
Tom Hiley equalised with a flicked near post header soon after but Danny Tuck controlled the ball on his knee and then lashed it home from distance to give Warley an interval lead.
Two goals in five minutes from Matty Hoyle early in the second half - a penalty and one direct from a corner - looked to have put Stump in the ascendancy.
However, Craig Reidy and Chris Hall combined for Burston to score with a free header and Warley gave as good as they got in the last 20 minutes.
Copley’s defeat means they stay bottom but the other lowly sides were unable to take advantage with Calder losing 3-2 at Holmfield and Shelf United beaten 4-1 away to in-form Elland United.
Calder took a much-weakened side to Holmfield with Ricky Topham, Simon Stansfield, Scott Dawson, Remi Allen and Hayden Gee among the absentees.
Holmfield were quick to seize the initiative with headed goals from Danny Kirman and Jordan Pettifor in the first 10 minutes.
Steve Jones pulled one back after Gavin Fleming’s attempt had been saved and James Jackson’s deflected effort got Calder back on level terms from Richard Stock’s long throw,
Calder had their moments in the second half - a disallowed goal from a Fleming header and a James Megson shot which was saved.
However, Holmfield looked the better side with Dave Heslop pulling the strings in midfield and Mick Palethorpe got their winner with 10 minutes left.
Vaughan Boon was on target twice as Elland kept Shelf biting their fingernails near the foot of the table.
Hebden Royd Red Star sealed promotion back to the Premier Division thanks to a 5-3 win at Denholme United.
Doubles from Joe Januszczyk and Ryan Thomas plus a Jamie Eaton strike means Dave Whitehouse’s side need six points from their final three games to clinch the Division One title.
The hosts started brightly but two strikes from Januszczyk put Red Star in control.
The winger ran on to a Thomas ball over the top before brilliantly applying a controlled finish high into the net.
His second was somewhat more fortunate. He collected a pass from James Chadwick and his shot took a wicked bounce over the ‘keeper’s outstretched arms.
The home side used the slope to pin back Red Star at the start of the second half and pulled a goal back on the hour mark.
The momentum was with the home side but Thomas, after having an effort blocked on the line, fired a free kick low into the corner and then nipped across his man at the front post to volley home an excellent Chris Garbutt cross.
Matt Oddy put through his own net under pressure from a Denholme attacker, but with five minutes to go substitute Eaton collected Joe Western’s cross-field ball before advancing into space and firing high into the roof of the net from the edge of the box.
There was still time for Denholme to claim their third before Red Star sub James Cowens fired wide of an empty net after intercepting a quick throw from the ‘keeper.
Second-placed Sowerby Bridge didn’t play but Wadsworth kept alive their slim promotion hopes with a 2-0 success away to Stainland, Max Crossley and Jonathan Gibson getting their goals.
Ryburn United Reserves suvived a second half onslaught from Northowram to win 1-0 and virtually ensure their safety.
The first half was a non-event with Ryburn marginally the better side, Joe Thompson scoring the only goal after six minutes when he was first to a through ball and slid home.
James Waggett and Danny Rushworth had efforts against the bar for Northowram and O’Keefe rounded the keeper from Chris Conroy’s long pass but a defender raced back to clear.
It was mainly one-way traffic in the second half but a combination of missed chances, kindly bounces for Ryburn in their six-yard box and some desperate last-ditch defending kept the home goal intact.
It meant there was no winning send-off for the retiring Brett Abson, who was Northowram’s captain for the day.
Despite Ryburn’s rearguard action, they were presented with the best chance of the game, and their only one of the half, after a mistake by David Nail left Rams ‘keeper James Bunn in no man’s land but the shot was pulled well wide of a gaping goal.
Mixenden were pushed nearer the trap door by Volunteer Arms, who beat them 6-4. Two players scored eight of the goals between them - Louy Kenny getting five for the victors and Chris Woodhouse three for Mixenden.
Carl Eastwood bagged another two goals for Halifax Irish Centre but his side still lost 3-2 away to Elland Allstars.
Sowerby Bridge Reserves are set to win Division Two by a wide margin and winning Saturday’s battle of the top two at home to Warley Rangers Reserves by 3-0.
Bridge are now 12 points clear of Warley in a rejigged table following Elland United Reserves’ withdrawal.
There was only one game in Division Three and Salem Reserves completed another testing season with a 7-1 home defeat by Spring Hall Celtic, who rested several players in preparation for a cup final date with Sowerby Bridge Reserves.
Celtic dominated from the start with Salem struggling to cope with the one touch passing and movement of a youthful Celtic side.
However, they held firm for 44 minutes thanks to a combination of inspired goalkeeping from Holdsworth and terrible finishing until Pervez netted a scrappy goal.
The second half was a different story as Salem lost all shape and found themselves chasing shadows, Zain adding a couple of quick fire goals.
Hussain (two), Mohammed and Khan added to the tally and Callum Burnside scored with a fantastic diving header into his own net.
Sub Maemet Trappo’s direct play disturbed Celic and Salem were rewarded with long-range free kick from Dave Holcroft which left keeper Foysal flapping.
Salem manager Matty Stones has appealed for anyone wanting to help the club climb the league to get in touch with him.