Saints crowned Halifax AFL champs

Football - Calder 76 v Illingworth St Mary's. Gareth Gaukroger heads an attempt at goal for Illingworth, with Calder's Ben Fairburn defending.
Football - Calder 76 v Illingworth St Mary's. Gareth Gaukroger heads an attempt at goal for Illingworth, with Calder's Ben Fairburn defending.
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Illingworth St Mary’s clinched their first Halifax AFL title on Saturday but perhaps not in the fashion they had hoped.

John Booth and Andy Gregory missed second half penalties as they were held 2-2 away to resurgent Calder ‘76, the team they have deposed as champions.

Saints had gone into the match needing to win one of their last four games to go through the three-division league set-up as champs in successive seasons.

As it happened, the point they collected on Saturday proved enough because Ryburn United were held 1-1 at Northowram.

However, the draw brought to an end their 49-match winning league run. The only points they had dropped in 60 previous matches in the Halifax AFL came in March 2015, when they lost 4-3 to Brighouse Sports in Division Two.

Pete Southwell, who co-manages Saints with Mick Rhodes, said Illingworth would still aim to go through their Premier campaign unbeaten and would look to make it a double by retaining the Challenge Cup.

They play Ryburn in the semi-final at Natty Lane, Illingworth next Saturday.

Southwell is also hoping the club’s reserves can gain promotion from Division Two to make it a very successful season for the club.

Only four of Calder’s title-winning side were in last weekend’s line-up and their manager Rob Kenworthy has his eyes on the runners-up berth, something he says would be a tremendous achievement after a major rebuild.

Max Crossley gave Calder a deserved lead and had a headed goal ruled out for a nudge on a defender.

Illingworth upped their game and equalised on 40 minutes when Andy Gregory, up from the back, scored with a good header.

Calder regained the lead after the break when the ball was bundled home by George Hampshire.

Ben Oldfield headed one off the line as Illingworth ramped up the pressure. John Booth then won a penalty but his spot kick was poor and Joe Kidder made a good reaction save.

Phil Livesey made it 2-2 and Booth won a second penalty approaching the last 10 minutes but Gregory fired wide.

Kenworthy said: “It was a great battle and we celebrated more than them.”

Ryburn were the better side in the second half at Northowram but needed a goal in added time to grab a 1-1 draw.

A goalless first half was high in endeavour but bereft of chances, Ryburn’s Christian Silkstone going closest In the final minute with a powerful angled shot on the turn which skimmed the angle of post and crossbar.

Only some splendid saves from James Bunn kept the home side in the game as Ryburn pressed down the slope.

A foul on Lewis Oldridge resulted in substitute Chris Conroy putting the Rams in front from the penalty spot after 70 minutes but from then on it was a backs to the wall for the hosts.

Bunn made two more brilliant saves, Silkstone fired over from eight yards out and a Ryburn header hit the bar.

Just when it seemed the Rams might hang on, confusion following a throw-in left Silkstone with a tap-in with more or less the last kick of the match.

Warley moved up to fourth place with a 5-0 victory over 10-man Shelf United at Shroggs Park.

Warley made the breakthrough after 15 minutes of pressure, Martin Boon crossed from the left and Adam Squire rose highest to bullet a header into the top corner.

Mark Kelsey then raced through to the double the advantage with a customary cool finish.

At the other end the outstanding Ben Grech hit the inside of a post in a rare Shelf attack.

Minutes before the interval Kelsey flicked the ball over the prone keeper after Carlton Balmer put him in the clear with an audacious piece of skill.

Warley were content to keep possession and avoid picking up injuries in a fairly tame second half.

Kelsey completed his hat trick on the hour with a powerful strike into the roof of the net and player/manager Matthew Chapman came off the bench to head home from close range after Balmer’s effort came back off the post.

Sowerby Bridge clinched promotion from Division One with a 5-0 success away to Ryburn United Reserves.

Damien Watkins scored a hat-trick and Oliver Coates and Luke Maguire got the others.

The table-toppers have done it with two games to spare and have played home games at Savile Park this season, following the flooding of their ground.

They could yet be overhauled in the title race by Shelf FC, who look certain to be gifted three points as hosts Holmfield failed to raise a side for Saturday’s meeting.

Simon Hill scored twice to help Elland Allstars win 4-2 away to AFC Crossleys while Denholme United continued their fine run with a 3-0 win at Brighouse Sports.

Midgley United Reserves tasted victory at the 19th attempt in the league this season when they beat visitors Greetland Reserves 4-2.

Sam Tattersall struck twice and there were other goals for James Yates and George Bamford, Scott McHale being responsible for both of the visitors’ goals.

Ivy House continued their Division Two title push with a 6-1 win away to Hebden Royd Red Star Reserves in their penultimate game.

First team player-manager Chris Garbutt netted for the hosts but it was to no avail as Scott Eastwood (two), Jamie Moorhouse, George Fry, Matthew Smith and Josh Brown struck for the visitors.

St Columba’s finished their Division Two season with a 2-2 draw away to Shelf United Reserves, which is likely to mean a fourth placed finish.

They went in front when Pete Connell found Jack Wilkinson, who chipped the keeper with a lovely finish.

Saints dominated the first half but the sides went in level after a dangerous free kick was nodded home.

Saints regained the lead through left back Josh Godfrey, who poked home from six yards after a corner kick was allowed to bounce in the area.

However, Saints wasted more chances and Shelf were rewarded for staying in the game with a late headed equaliser.