Double boost for Ryburn title bid
Ryburn United will owe Hebden Royd Red Star a massive thank you if they manage to retain their Haslem Sheppard Halifax AFL title.
Ryburn looked to have no chance at the start of February when they were below half-way in the Premier and had dropped 14 points to Stump Cross’s three.
But Craig Walker’s side have never looked back since being awarded three points in the committee room, making it seven wins in a row with a nervy 1-0 success over Sowerby United on Saturday to go five points clear at the top.
Stump, meanwhile, lost to Red Star for the second time in quick succession but are still favourites to lift the trophy.
Ryburn so nearly dropped points against a Sowerby side close to the drop.
They needed a goal from Brad Waddington five minutes from time to win it after being on the back foot for much of the game.
Ryburn were pinned back for long spells in the first half. With Jake Allott keeping danger man Joe Swallow in check, Ryburn were finding it hard to get forward.
James Clegg was superb in the Sowerby midfield and his range of passes gave the front runners plenty of opportunities.
Ryburn had their best spell entering the final quarter, aided by several long throws from Simon Carter.
It was from one of these that Waddington forced the ball home.
Ryburn then got every man behind the ball to hang on in a game was well refereed by John Hallos.
Two goals from Chad Godfrey gave Red Star a 2-1 win at Shroggs Park.
Stump, beaten 2-0 in the first meeting, looked to have restored confidence with a big win at Shelf but Josh Hiley scored their only goal in the rematch.
Copley United inched nearer safety with a point from a 6-6 draw away to Greetland.
Niall Carrington bagged three more for the hosts but was upstaged by Copley’s Gary Ash, who bagged five and is a leading candidate to be the Premier’s leading scorer this season.
A well-motivated Northowram side put a rocky patch behind them with a 4-1 derby win at home to Shelf United.
There were few clear chances in the first half but the Rams, playing down the slope, had more of the play, were quicker to the ball, and forced their opponents into mistakes.
Shaun Popek’s superb volley after 15 minutes, from Karl Amos’ cross, put the Rams ahead.
The direct running of Alex O’Keefe caused Shelf problems and his persistence created the chance for him to hammer home the second.
He also fired wide from an narrow angle when a ball inside to the unmarked Popek looked a better option.
Although Shelf raised their game, they were unable to open up a hard-working and resolute Rams’ side and their best chance fell to Billy Grogan late on but he fired straight at James Bunn.
By that time they had conceded a further two goals, the first of which was a fine individual effort from O’Keefe on 53 minutes.
Chris Dunne slotted a fourth through the keeper’s legs with the Shelf defence at sixes and sevens but the visitors mustered a consolation when Oliver Coates bundled the ball in after Bunn had made a sharp one-handed save low down.
Calder ‘76 climbed a couple of places to seventh with a 6-1 win away to bottom side Elland United.
Adam Goldthorpe picked off Remi Allen’s attempted back pass to give Elland the lead but Allen wasted no time in making amends with a first half hat-trick.
He made it 1-1 from Jon Gibson’s flick on and Elland were then reduced to 10 men when visiting man of the match Steve Jones was tripped by the ‘keeper.
The substitute custodian brilliantly saved Simon Stansfield’s spot kick but could do little to stop Allen scoring with a back-heel for the second time this season and then sending his side in at the break 3-1 to the good.
After a low key third quarter, Sam Taylor produced a great finish from a corner, Gibson headed in a fine cross from Max Crossley and a home player sliced the ball into his own net from a Jones corner.
Rarely a week goes by without the scales tipping in the Division One title battle between Holmfield and Mixenden United.
Holmfield are firmly in the driving seat again after they won 4-2 at Stainland United and Mixenden were held 3-3 at home by Ryburn United Reserves.
Sam Shaw (two), Danny Kirman and Martin Woodhouse were on target as Holmfield bounced back from a defeat by Denholme to go 11 points clear.
Mixenden, who have played three games fewer, went 2-0 up in the first half with a free kick from Damien Randall and a good header from Dave Graham.
However, they have a habit of starting the second half slowly and Ryburn were quick to hit back with a header, after Mixenden ‘keeper Anthony Fenwick had failed to gather a cross, and a free kick past the ‘wall’.
Ryburn then took the lead but Adam Gaze scored a scrappy equaliser with five minutes left.
Randall almost scored a spectacular winner, the ball hitting the bar from bicycle kick from out on the right.
Mixenden retained second spot because Salem lost 4-2 away to in-form Denholme.
Salem were the better team in the first half on a hard, bobbly Foster Park pitch.
Although their ‘keeper flapped a Matty Waring corner into his own net, the home defence were unable to cope with big front man Stephen Croft who scored twice for the visitors.
The game’s turning point came early in the second half when Croft had a penalty well saved by Joe Greenwood.
The ‘keeper immediately threw the ball to Waring, who dribbled the length of the field before chipping the Salem custodian.
Denholme took the lead on 75 minutes with a rare goal from left back Richard Wear, who scored with a diving header from a corner.
Salem pressed but Michael Midgley beat the offside trap to seal success for the home side.
Sowerby Bridge continue on an upward curve, goals from Dean Park, Joel Cleary, Luke Maguire and Jordan Bedford giving them a 4-0 win over Division Two-bound Greetland Reserves.
Elland Allstars and AFC Crossleys both won 2-1 on trips to the Calder Valley. Allstars got a late winner against Calder ‘76 Reserves while Simon Stockings and Craig Gladwin helped Crossleys get the better of Midgley Reserves.
The gap between Brighouse Sports and Illingworth St Mary’s remains 10 points at the summit of Division Two.
Brighouse hit the 100-goal mark in the league this season with a 5-2 home win over Hebden Royd Red Star.
They have played four games more than Illingworth, who saw off the challenge of visitors Northowram Reserves by 4-1 with two goals each from Brandon Field and Jake Griffin.
Jack Harrison and Lea Kelly scored a hat-trick apiece as Denholme Reserves won 7-2 away to Shelf United Reserves.
Two games involving sides in the bottom four finished with honours even.
It was 2-2 between Salem Reserves and Sowerby Bridge Reserves and 4-4 between Sowerby United Reserves and AFC Crossleys Reserves.