Shelf FC’s emergence as a major force in the Halifax AFL was confirmed last night with a runaway 4-0 win over Ryburn United in the Jack Haymer Challenge Cup final at the Shay.
After an even first 50 minutes, Calum Lewis’s superb 35 yard shot broke the deadlock and further goals from Josh Hans, replacement Ben Ireland and man of the match Alex O’Keefe helped them to an ultimately comfortable success.
It completed a miserable couple of days for Ryburn at the home of FC Halifax Town, their reserves having lost 3-1 to Ivy House in the Invitation Cup final the previous evening.
Shelf were making it a double after winning the Division One title in a hectic end to their season and the speed and scale of their improvement has surprised even their manager Matthew Till.
“At the start of the season winning the title was our main aim and we only lost two league games. We never expected this in a million years,” said Till, who confirmed that Shelf were starting a reserve team next season .
The quality of Shelf’s football going forward was not in doubt before last night. How their young side’s defence would cope against a barrage of long throws from Ryburn’s human catapult Ashton Richardson was.
Their clean sheet tells its own story, although keeper Pawel Szypulski did have to make three useful saves.
Shelf have a large junior set-up and they were led out by a team of young mascots for the final act of the Halifax AFL season in front of a crowd of almost 300.
Premier Division side Ryburn, who sprung a surprise by leaving goal ace Christian Silkstone on the bench, were given an early scare when Hans worked his way past three defenders and his slightly deflected shot forced a good save from Ash Raynor.
Brad Tinan, Owen Wilkinson and the combative Brad Waddington were off target as Ryburn started to create half-chances while Shelf remained a threat with O’Keefe a dangerous raider down the left flank.
When Shelf’s Andy Hawker and Ryburn’s Macauley Peacock flashed efforts wide in the run up to half time, the importance of the first goal became clear.
Lewis got it in spectacular style six minutes after the break. O’Keefe found him in space with a square pass from the touchline and the midfielder’s dipping shot went over Raynor and into the roof of the net.
Shelf added a fine second on 63 minutes when Hans pounced on a through ball and rounded Rayner before applying an excellent finish from an acute angle in front of a retreating defender.
Both managers made changes and while Ryburn continued to push, Shelf were now in their comfort zone and relishing the extra space they were afforded.
O’Keefe set up substitute Ben Ireland to add a composed, accurate finished on 67 minutes and the winger completed the scoring with 10 minutes left when left one-on-one with Raynor.
Ryburn’s night was summed up when Reece Uttley sent the ball rolling towards an open goal with a couple of minutes left but full back Rory Senior got back to clear off the line.
Ryburn United: Ash Raynor, Alex Coburn, Carl Maguire, Ashton Richardson, Macauley Peacock, Will Hurst, Brad Waddington, Owen Wilkinson, Tom Hiley, Joe Swallow, Brad Tinon. Subs: Adam Barlow, Simon Carter, Reece Uttley, Christian Silkstone, Matty Hirst.
Shelf FC: Pavel Szypulski, Rory Senior, Nathan Charlton, Sam Henderson, Jonathan Aaron, Jack Hartley, Calum Lewis, Andrew Hawker, Kyle Peel, Josh Hans, Alex O’Keefe. Subs: Ben Ireland, Matty Hartley, Gary Boldy.
Referee: Peter Bowe. Lines: Chris King and Damian Wales. Fourth official: Richard Stock.