By Ian Rushworth
THE start of a bright new era or another false dawn?
Ovenden coach Steve Taylor reckons it is up to his players after a convincing victory in Saturday’s unofficial battle to establish Calderdale’s second best amateur side behind Siddal.
The Four Fields men have won only a handful of games in the last couple of seasons but their display in this Conference Division Two contest made a mockery of that record.
Elland arrived in decent form and looking to mount a late challenge for promotion but they came up against a side hell-bent on improving on the earlier 8-8 draw between the sides.
The visitors looked favourites when they turned round to play with the slope and breeze trailing by only 10-8. However, Ovenden played like men possessed to stretch clear and prevent Elland from adding to their points tally until the final minute.
Home coach Taylor was in no mood to gloat after an upset victory over a side he had charge of as recently as last season.
He was more concerned about his players buckling down in training and doing themselves justice on a more regular basis.
“I’ve always seen something in this team but I want to see it week in week out,” he said.
“If we stay injury free and show the same level of commitment we will upset one or two of the top sides. I’m hoping we’ll end up in mid-table.”
A creditable fourth place is now looking the best Elland can hope for in their first season since switching from the Pennine League.
Coach Karl Fairbank will be concerned they were out-enthused on Saturday and unable to provide a platform for half backs Liam Manning and Brad Pearson to play on the front foot.
It was all Ovenden in the early stages and Elland had to work hard in defence to limit the damage to 10 points in the first quarter.
Winger Tom McAdam drew first blood wide on the right on nine minutes after the visitors had coughed up possession 30 metres out.
Prop Matty Collins and loose forward Brett Durkin were held up over the try line and Elland had to drop out from under their posts a couple of times before good work by Matt Turner wide on the left allowed winger Will Midgley to touch down on 20 minutes. Centre Luke Sandland banged over the conversion.
Elland had barely got out of their own half with the ball in hand up to this point but then scored twice in four minutes.
They made ground on the back of successive penalties and experienced forward Marc Shickell ploughed over from a short pass.
Then Junaid Malik’s chip from half-way was collected by loose forward Jack Fairbank. Although he was hauled down, Ovenden had failed to make it back in numbers and winger Oliver Fairbank went over for another unconverted try.
Indiscipline was the only black mark on the day for Ovenden. They were marched back for dissent when penalised on several occasions and when second row Chris Geoghegan was yellow carded at the end of the half it appeared the scales were further tipping Elland’s way.
However, the expected onslaught from the visitors after the break never came and Ovenden were given a tonic three minutes after the restart when stand off Gareth Jones wrestled his way over the try line with several tacklers hanging on.
Sandland added a good conversion to make it 16-8 and that stiffened Ovenden’s resolve. They are not the biggest side in the world but worked hard to get three or four men into the tackle before quickly getting back into the defensive line.
With second row Turner leading by example as skipper and young fullback Luke O’Mara running the ball well out of defence, Ovenden were able to retain good field position and frustrate the visitors.
The killer blow was landed by Midgley on 65 minutes when he was awarded a try wide out from Jones’s last-tackle kick in spite of a dubious grounding.
Hooker Luke Sutcliffe put more daylight between the teams when he rounded off an excellent Ovenden move down the middle with five minutes left, Sandland converting.
Elland had the last word through Ben Hinsley’s unconverted try from Pearson’s deflected kick to the corner, but their muted celebration of the score told its own story.