It was red letter day for the sides at the top and the bottom of the Haslem-Sheppard Halifax AFL’s Premier Division on Saturday.
Leaders Midgley United made themselves red hot title favourites by thrashing nearest challengers Stump Cross 5-0 away while trailing Shelf United gained their first league win of the season at the ninth attempt with a 5-2 win away to Calder ‘76.
Midgley have shot into a nine-point lead at the half-way point in their fixtures and their hard work in training during the bad weather paid off as they proved too fit and strong for Stump.
They made it nine Premier wins in a row, after drawing their opener away to Warley Rangers, but it was Stump who made the early running at Shroggs Park with Liam Brompton to the fore.
Midgley had lost fullback Ian Hudson with a cut and concussion in an accidental clash of heads early on, but their shuffled back line still coped comfortably.
The visitors took the lead against the run of play when Tom Booth latched on to a loose ball in the box after 30 minutes.
Craig Gee’s men were boosted by a second goal before half time, Booth linking with Greg Spink who floated over a lovely cross for George Bamford to score with an excellent looping header.
Stump were forced to commit men forward and Midgley hit them on the counter, Bamford putting more daylight between the teams on 55 minutes when he picked up the ball on the right, went through one-on-one with the keeper and tucked the ball into the bottom corner.
Skipper Andrew Butterworth curled a 25-yard free-kick into the top corner on 70 minutes and things got heated as Stump realised they were chasing a lost cause.
Darren Nelson, Spink, Booth and Bamford all missed good chances before Bamford hammered the final nail in the coffin when he lobbed the advancing keeper.
Shelf called up Ben Grech, a teenager who normally plays for Liversedge Reserves, and he bagged four goals as his side came from a goal down to beat Calder, who were playing only their sixth league game of the season.
Grech helped the visitors surge 4-1 ahead and although Calder got a second from the penalty spot, Shelf got a fifth to make the points safe.
Ryburn’s 2-2 draw at home to Warley Rangers was another good result for Midgley.
Ryburn moved above Stump on goal difference into second and were grateful to Craig Peckover’s late goal for salvaging a point.
Ryburn started brightly and Christian Silkstone ran on to a clearance from ‘keeper Ash Raynor and opened the scoring for them on 15 minutes.
The hosts sat back and Warley equalised after half an hour when a deep cross from the left was met on the volley by Matthew Bodkin.
It was stalemate until the hour mark when Dave Maguire swivelled and hit a shot which deceived Ryburn and finished with the ball in the bottom corner.
Ryburn piled on the pressure with Gary Hodgson a threat down the right but they drew a blank until a corner at the death. Peckover challenged with a couple of defenders and when the ball dropped at his feet, he hit it left footed into the top corner.
Wadsworth United produced the eye-catching scoreline in Division One, thumping Volunteer Arms 10-1 in their first home game since mid-October.
The start was delayed by the late appearance of the referee, who dismissed an Arms defender after an altercation with him after 10 minutes.
Top scorer Jonathon Gibson soon made the most of the numerical advantage, beating the offside trap and finishing calmly in the one-on-one with the ‘keeper.
Gibson doubled the lead moments lately after a slick passing move involving Zac Greenwood and Max Crossley and Adam Brown cut in from the left and rolled the ball through the ‘keeper’s legs.
Home custodian Joel Greenwood claimed the assist for Gibson’s hat-trick goal with a pin point long ball and Crossley beat three defenders, cut in from the right and hammered home a left footed shot from the edge of the area in to the roof of the net.
It was 6-0 as the half time whistle went, Gibson unselfishly playing in Crossley for his second.
Volunteer got a goal back five minutes after the restart but the ruthless hosts added to their tally through Crossley, Greenwood, sub Brendan Barclay with a wonderful diving header and finally man of the match Gibson with his 13th of the season.
Three goals in a 10-minute spell in the second half helped Sowerby Bridge win 4-3 away to Mixenden at Natty Lane.
Mixenden defied their lowly standing by having the better of the first quarter with their man of the match Paul Kemp to the fore.
However, chances were few and far between and they fell behind when Lee Wood beat ‘keeper Gary Allchin to the ball following a throw on 25 minutes.
Mixenden equalised from defender Adam Burke’s header at a corner to make it 1-1 at the break but after a tight start to the second half second-placed Bridge got on top.
Rick Taylor fired home from the edge of the box following a corner; Mick Ellis sent on Jim Sweeney to score with his first taste of the action; and Adam Barlow made it 4-1 with a superb 25-year free-kick into the top corner.
Bridge switched off and never-say-die Mixenden set up a tense finish with goals from Kemp and then Stuart Sinclair, who scored at the third attempt from six yards after ‘keeper Jim Bottomley had picked up a back pass.
Bridge are now only two points behind leaders Hebden Royd Red Star, with a game in hand, after the leaders needed a late penalty from Eddy Harvey to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Denholme United.
Star squandered some good opportunities in the first half, but after falling behind late in the game were relieved to have escaped with their unbeaten record intact.
The hosts were on top in the early exchanges and Tom Garland, promoted from the reserves, had three opportunities to open the scoring after good work from strike partner Chris Garbutt.
Late in the half, a Daniel Lumb effort was deflected onto the bar to conclude a frustrating 45 minutes for Dave Whitehouse’s side.
The second half was a much more even and Denholme grew in confidence and forced stand in ‘keeper James Rawlinson to make some fine saves.
The visiting centre half was dismissed for dissent with 20 minutes left but Denholme looked to have won the game in stoppage time.
A diagonal ball from the left ran kindly for Denholme’s Webster to fire beyond Rawlinson from an angle.
However, Jordan Dean was brought down and Harvey dispatched the kick into the top right hand corner.
Northowram completed a double over Stainland, fighting back from 2-0 down at half time to win 3-2 with a fine individual goal from Alex O’Keefe 14 minutes from time.
The Rams had most of the play in the first half but failed to test keeper Ryan Severn.
Stainland, who were best served by Karl Jowett, went ahead after 10 minutes when Andy Lumb bustled his way to a bouncing ball and turned Matthew Rushworth, who made a recovering tackle, only to see the ball loop over James Bunn.
The Rams were left to rue misses from Chris Conroy and Danny Rushworth when the persistence of Lumb, aided by a couple of lucky ricochets, put the visitors two up 10 minutes from half-time.
The Rams began the second half with a flourish. Severn twice denied O’Keefe before Danny Rushworth headed home from Conroy’s delivery.
Three minutes later the Rams drew level when Severn palmed Conroy’s corner into the path of David Nail and his rising drive gave the keeper no chance.
A Conroy header was cleared off the line and but O’Keefe was a handful throughout the second half and from an unpromising position, he turned his marker and ghosted past two defenders before coolly slotting home.
There was another close scoreline at West Vale, where Elland Allstars’ leading marksman Connor Bell bagged two more goals in his side’s 3-2 win over Halifax Irish Centre.
In Division Two, a sparkling second half display earned Sowerby United Reserves a 5-1 home win in the basement battle with Halifax Irish Centre Reserves.
After a bright start Sowerby fell behind when Zumerad Ajab scored with a powerful header from a corner.
Irish were lifted by the goal and with Gordon Gee organising his side well they grew in confidence.
Sowerby fought hard with George Turner and Nathan Howard starting to get control in midfield but had to wait until the second half to draw level through George Turner, after he had combined well with Aran Howard.
A minute later Sowerby were ahead when Nathan Howard kept his cool to stroke the ball home after a fine run.
A superb 30-yard strike from Gareth Lymm put Sowerby in control before Nathan Howard headed home their fourth. Daniel Howard wrapped up the scoring when won the ball in his own half and raced clear to round the ‘keeper.
Midgley United Reserves were convincing 4-0 home winners over their Hebden Royd Red Star counterparts in a Calder Valley derby.
Andy Bottomley paved the way for James Balmforth to slide the ball past the keeper for the opener.
Balmforth missed a penalty but made amends five minutes later when good work from Matthew Thompson left him with a tap-in.
Bottomley scored from close range and Adam Garlick sealed a convincing win for Nick Farrar’s side by lobbing the keeper from 30 yards.
Leaders Sowerby Bridge Reserves made light of the absences of key men Michael Rigby and Luke Maguire and a couple of early injuries to win 3-0 away to Halifax Athletic.
That enabled them to stretch six points clear at the top from Warley Rangers Reserves, who were held 4-4 at home by Elland United’s second string.
Dean Fulton scored twice and Chris Doyle was also on target for Bridge.
League newcomers Shelf FC won the big game in Division Three, beating visitors Calder ‘76 Reserves 3-2 and reducing their victims’ lead at the top to one point with one game in hand.
Denholme United Reserves, also very much in the hunt for honours, look set to get three points the easy way after visitors Elland Allstars Reserves failed to raise a team.