All square between title contenders

Shelf's Robin Hurtley and Northowram's Alex O'Keefe
Shelf's Robin Hurtley and Northowram's Alex O'Keefe

The Halifax AFL Division One title is still to be decided after Saturday’s big derby between promoted pair Shelf United and Northowram finished 1-1.

The Rams have finished their 22-game programme on 55 points and Shelf can match that tally with victories in their final two games against the best second string in the league, Ryburn United Reserves.

That would leave the title to be settled on goal difference and the Rams currently have a 13-goal advantage.

A draw in front of a bumper crowd at Shelf Park was a fair result, two moments within a minute midway through the second half shaping the game’s outcome.

The visitors’ Alex O’Keefe went through one-on-one and fired against the keeper’s legs. The ball was immediately transferred downfield where a miskick from the otherwise excellent James Waggett let in Joe Griffin for the equaliser.

The first half had been goalless with defences well on top and the football generally scrappy. O’Keefe was inches away from Mark Eade’s cross and the lively Griffin fashioned Shelf’s only shot on target which was well saved by James Bunn.

Griffin put another chance wide from a good position while Chris Dunne’s through ball was marginally too strong for Eade at the other end.

A change in the weather favoured Shelf who began the second half down the slope with the wind and rain at their backs.

However, the Rams took the lead five minutes after the restart when Eade, who worked tirelessly to create openings against a rugged defence, showed great determination to win the ball and rifled his shot high into the net.

Northowram’s Danny King and Chris Conroy wasted chances before Griffin’s goal gave the home side added momentum.

Matthew Rushworth and Waggett were a strong central defensive pairing for Rams.

An excellent save low down from Bunn denied Griffin and as the ball ran loose Archie Griffiths made a vital last-ditch interception.

The Rams were down to 10 men when a reckless challenge forced Danny Rushworth to leave the field with a nasty head wound.

However, the visitors might have snatched it when Eade won the ball in spite of apparently being fouled and played O’Keefe into a clear scoring position, only for the referee to penalise Eade.

It was the first points Shelf have dropped at home this season and Northowram are unbeaten in the league since losing their opening game of the season at Denholme

Denholme, meanwhile, have third place in their sights after winning 3-2 away to Sowerby Bridge Reserves.

Luke Dickinson’s fine individual effort gave Denholme an early lead in what developed into a very scrappy game on a poor pitch.

The speedy Michael Midgley extended the lead and when Paul Armitage stretched to make it 3-0 after 70 minutes it looked game over.

However, Bridge had spurned chances before then and hit back through James Bugler’s shot from the left and Michael Rigby’s looping header at the back post.

Denholme only just hung on, Bridge hitting the woodwork a couple of times.

Ryburn Reserves, who have an Invitation Cup final date at the Shay to look forward to, they were 3-1 winners away to Volunteer Arms with goals from Rick Bottomley, Gareth Robertshaw and Chris Redhead.

AFC Crossleys celebrated their Division Two title success in style with a 12-1 win away to King Cross Warley Reserves with an eight-goal blast from Craig Gladwin.

Crossleys had clinched the title in the committee room when the West Riding County FA suspended Spring Hall Celtic for their final three games and awarded the points to their opponents.

However, King Cross’s defeat on Saturday confirmed Spring Hall Celtic as runners-up.

Gladwin stole the show, sending Crossleys on their way with the opening four goals in the first half. They including one superb effort in which he ran 50 yards and beat several home players before slipping the ball past the keeper.

Des Morris (two), Dave Mdlodecki and Matty Clark added to the tally.

King Cross got one back midway through the second half via Mark Partington’s penalty but Crossleys were out of sight by then and will be keen to finish on a high away to Denholme Reserves on Wednesday.

There could be plenty of goals in that one if Denholme’s 5-5 draw with Calder ‘76 reserves on Saturday is anything to go by, Dan Mitchell bagging a hat-trick for Calder.

Midgley United Reserves put a couple of defeats behind them with a 3-0 home success against Shelf Reserves with goals from Matthew Thompson, Darren Nelson and Joe Elwin.