Illingworth St Mary’s took a giant step towards winning their first Haifax AFL Premier Division title with a 3-1 win over main rivals Ryburn United on Saturday.
The leaders produced a classy first half performance to build a 3-0 lead against the county cup semi-finalists.
Saints were dominant in all areas with Damo Randall causing all sorts of problems for the Ryburn defence.
His hard work and determination paid off when he cut in from the left, outside the box and sublimely curled the ball into the top corner.
Illingworth were firing on all cylinders and although Gareth Gaukroger missed with just the keeper to beat, he made amends with a fine finish from outside the box after a great chest down by John Booth.
Ryburn never looked in the game but Christian Silkstone broke clear and Warren Gray made a great save.
It was only a matter of time before Saints got a third and it came from the penalty spot. Booth was tripped and made no mistake from 12 yards.
Ryburn battled to restore some pride in the second half but lost long throw expert Ashton Richardson to injury, followed by Silkstone.
Gray made a couple of outstanding saves but Ryburn did manage to pull one back at the death through Alex Coburn.
Northowram are up to second after a 3-1 home win over Sowerby United in spite of a less than convincing performance on a poor playing surface.
Sowerby started brightly but early chances were few. The best fell to the hosts’ Archie Birchall but Jack Leonard in the Sowerby goal snuffed out the threat.
The visitors went ahead after 20 minutes courtesy of a blatant push on Matthew Rushworth which allowed Rory Thickett to bundle the ball home.
Justice prevailed two minutes later when neat footwork from Lewis Oldridge followed by a perfectly-flighted ball gave Rushworth the chance to head the equaliser.
The Rams put together some tidy moves and an exquisite goal gave them the lead after 35 minutes. A looping header out of defence reached Oldridge and his superbly-struck volley flew past the keeper.
James Bunn’s first save came three minutes from the break when he punched away Corey Henderson’s shot.
The second half was a very scrappy affair. Leonard saved well from Rushworth following a first minute corner, Baines was too high with a free kick and Sowerby finished the stronger.
Pressing for the equaliser proved their undoing, however. With all their players in the Rams’ half, Oldridge had a clear run and tucked the ball into the bottom corner a minute from time.
Goals from Ben Cole and Karl Jowerr gave Greetland a 2-0 win away to bottom side Copley United.
Shelf FC warmed up for next Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Midgley United with a 5-2 home win over Midgley’s reserve team in Division One.
A hat-trick from Joshua Hans moved them three points nearer leaders Sowerby Bridge.
They are one point behind second-placed Holmfield, who crashed 4-0 away top Salem.
Jay Thomas got a hat-trick for Salem, a feat matched by Ryburn Reserves’ Nathan Hargreaves in the 4-1 win over AFC Crossleys and Calder Reserves’ Michael McKelvey in the 4-3 defeat away to Denholme United.
Adam Hurcombe’s two goals were in vain for Greetland Reserves, who lost 4-2 away to Elland Allstars.
St Columba’s dealt Ivy House’s Division Two title hopes a hammer blow with a 2-0 victory at Natty Lane.
Saints again showed that the big games bring the best out of them with a gutsy success on a difficult, heavy surface. They repelled a strong second half onslaught from House.
The hosts took the lead midway through the first half when winger Jack Wilkinson won the ball 30 yards from goal, drove forward and smashed the ball into the top left hand corner.
Saints doubled their lead with the last action of the half via quick thinking from Kutubo Touray. His first time ball sent Scott Holmes through to beat the on-rushing keeper to the ball and prod home from the edge of the area.
Ivy House pushed hard in the second half but were kept at bay by strong centre back performances from Jacob Richardson and Jack Dobson and a fine display of goal keeping from Maccauley Richardson.
The closest they came was a penalty by Isaac Nicholl which Richardson saved. Nicholl was unable to finish the rebound.
Both sides had penalty appeals turned down towards the end and Ivy House kept attacking but there was always a Saints player there to make a last ditch tackle or block a shot.
Chris Dunne scored three times and Jake Baker twice as Northowram Reserves won 7-0 away to Sowerby United Reserves and AFC Crossley’s Reserves were even more handsome winners at home to Salem Reserves, Matthew Clark scoring four times in a 9-1 rout.