Ryburn stretch champions-elect

Actions from the game, Red Star v Elland at Elland Rec'Picured are Joe Januszczyk and Gav Foster.
Actions from the game, Red Star v Elland at Elland Rec'Picured are Joe Januszczyk and Gav Foster.
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Midgley United are within a hair’s breadth of clinching the Haslem-Sheppard Halifax AFL title after their 3-2 win at Ryburn United on Friday evening.

That took them nine points clear of Stump Cross, who then beat Warley Rangers by 5-0 on Saturday to close the gap to six points again.

However, both teams now have only two games left and Midgley also have a superior goal difference of 12, so success for Craig Gee’s men looks a formality and could come on Wednesday if Stump fail to win at relegation-threatened Shelf United.

Midgley had twice comfortably beaten one-time title contenders Ryburn this season but their hosts were in no mood to roll over again.

The visitors had most of the early possession but looked nervous and Ryburn took the lead after 15 minutes when ex-Midgley man Gary Hodgson hit a brilliant right foot shot into the top corner.

A second superb strike followed - this time a free kick from Andrew Butterworth - and that left it 1-1 at half time.

Tom Booth’s glancing header from Butterworth’s excellent free-kick delivery made it 2-1 to the visitors but Butterworth then under-hit a back pass to his brother Steve in goal and the ball rebounded off Christian Silkstone into the net for 2-2.

Gee sent on James Adey and Midgley pushed for a winner, which came with about 15 minutes left when good play down the left by Ryan Jeffries enabled Booth to set up George Bamford.

Stump made light of a tricky-looking home contest the following day with goals from Tom and Josh Hiley, Tom Robinson, Ashley Ackroyd and Damian Watkins.

At the other end of the table, four teams are separated by two points in the battle to avoid the likely one relegation place.

Shelf are now bottom after Copley United threw themselves a lifeline with two wins in four days against Greetland, who probably have their minds on their Challenge Cup final date with Stump Cross.

Lee Worrall scored both Copley goals in the first meeting, which his side won 2-1, and he bagged another brace in the rematch which finished 3-2.

In Saturday’s other game, Calder ‘76 picked up a point in a 2-2 draw at Holmfield.

The hosts had the better of the first half and emerged from it with a 2-1 advantage.

Mick Palethorpe cashed in when Scott Dawson’s defensive header back towards his ‘keeper was not strong enough and although Simon Witton’s corner was headed in by Calder’s man of the match James Megson, Gareth Gaukroger beat the offside trap to restore Holmfield’s lead.

Calder had struggled in the first half but they were much better after the break and might have had one more goal to show for their efforts, sub Gav Martin putting one effort over the bar and hitting the outside of a post with a shot.

However, the visitors drew level 15 minutes from the end when Remi Allen got to a ball over the top before ‘keeper Craig Lobley, knocked it past him and put it into an empty net.

Sowerby Bridge are relishing a return to the Halifax AFL’s top flight after a gap of several years, having clinched at least the runners-up spot in Division One on Saturday.

Bridge could only manage a 2-2 draw away to Denholme United but Wadsworth United’s 1-0 home defeat by Salem ensured they will go up alongside likely champions Hebden Royd Red Star.

Bridge made their usual slow start and Michael Midgley threatened for the hosts down the Foster Park slope.

However, Bridge got the only goal of the first half after 25 minutes when ‘keeper Danny Jennings’ long kick was flicked on by Lee Wood for Martin Bates to outpace the defence and score from the edge of the box.

Denholme scored twice in 10 minutes early in the second half to take the lead, Paul Armitage hitting the target with a fine low shot and then Matthew Beney hooking the ball home via the underside of the bar.

However, seasonal debutant James Bugler fired home an equaliser with 10 minutes left after combining with Scott Hibbert.

Manager Mick Ellis heard of Wadsworth’s defeat in the car on the way home and said: “We have previously finished third for three years in a row so as a club we are chuffed.”

Hebden Royd Red Star require just one more point to seal the title after a crushing 5-1 victory at Elland Allstars.

Red Star made an edgy start and went behind after quarter of an hour when Dehran Gibson headed home from a corner at the near post.

The goal galvanised the visitors. Ryan Thomas deflected in a Danny Lumb effort, but was ruled offside. However, Jamie Eaton’s free kick from halfway drifted high over everyone and into the net.

Chris Garbutt, Harry West and Thomas combined superbly and the front man’s perfect cross was volleyed home by Tom Garland.

From there Red Star never looked back, although they were denied by a stunning point blank save after James Chadwick had set up Thomas.

The second half was one way traffic. Lumb and Garbutt hit the bar from 25 yards with sizzling efforts but Joe Januszczyk bagged his fifth goal in four games and Chadwick fed sub James Rawlinson, who bundled the ball home at the second attempt.

In the dying moments Chadwick rounded off another flowing move to seal Red Star’s eighth consecutive league win.

In the section’s other game, Mixenden United’s prospects of beating the drop look fairly remote after they lost 3-1 away to much-improved Ryburn United Reserves.

Sowerby Bridge Reserves rounded off their title-winning campaign in Division Two and prepared for a cup final appearance on Friday with an 8-0 thrashing of hosts Hebden Royd Red Star Reserves.

Michael Rigby bagged another four goals for Bridge, who are 14 points clear of Greetland Reserves.

Promotion-gunning Greetland moved into second place thanks to Scott McHale’s only goal of the game away to Halifax Athletic.

Spring Hall Celtic will be relieved to have almost a week rest after an exhausting late season schedule which has earned them second spot in Division Three behind champions Denholme United Reserves.

Celtic, who are Sowerby Bridge Reserves’ opponents in Friday’s Invitation Cup final, have pipped luckless Calder ‘76 reserves and Shelf FC on goal difference after a 10-1 win over Savile Arms on Saturday.

Celtic have the best goal difference of the three prior to Saturday and only needed to win, which they did in style with the help of doubles from Sameer Ahmed, Faysol Ahmed, Zain Ahmed and Atif Hussain.

Fixtures

Monday - Premier Division: Greetland AFC v Calder 76 (M.Edwards).

Wednesday - Premier Division: Shelf United v Stump Cross (D.Bartley), Sowerby United v Calder 76 (S.Adams), Warley Rangers v Ryburn United (S.Hoyle).

Division One: Mixenden United v Hx Irish Centre (M.Beard), Ryburn United Res v Hebden Royd Red Star (P.Higgins), Wadsworth United v Sowerby Bridge (M.Edwards).

Friday - Haslem-Sheppard Invitation Cup Final (Natty Lane) - Sowerby Bridge Res v Spring Hall Celtic (Ref. W.Cotton, linesmen S.Dennis, R.Walker).