THE Bridge Balti Halifax Sunday League kicked off at the weekend with a derby in Division One between Old Pond and Thornhill Briggs, during which Glen Hall’s visiting side backed up their pre-season confidence with a solid victory, writes Andy Dawson.
Hall was quietly optimistic that his new squad, boasting a host of top players, could challenge for the title and on this showing they should be there or thereabouts come April.
The sub-plot to this encounter involved the Lane Head surface – appallingly prepared with piles of long freshly cut grass making dribbling in the wider areas an impossibility – and grass completely uncut along the goal-lines.
In the circumstances both sides delivered an entertaining season opener, with Briggs having the better of the opening exchanges. Pond player-manager Richard Dawson astutely altered formation leaving Chris Payne up top on his own to redress the visitors’ early midfield dominance.
The first half was subsequently a bit of a chess match, with few clear cut opportunities. Tom Wright headed over for Briggs when well-placed and Glen Hall fired wide, whilst at the other end Payne stung the palms of Briggs keeper Ethan Dingley and Chris Marsh headed over from a Paul Meredith centre.
The match remained goalless at the interval, but it was the Briggs player-boss Hall who opened the scoring with a crisp drive into the corner of the net to set his side on the road to victory.
Two quick fire goals followed and left the Hove Edge outfit in trouble; Chris Wdowczyk broke through and lofted the ball home, before a similar move culminated in Alex Hallam smashing into the net.
Pond stuck to their task well though and continued to press for an opening back into the match. Michael Barlow broke clear but fired over from Marsh’s pass, but this only served as warning as he made no mistake minutes later. Having received the ball from Michael Martin, he thumped home from within the penalty area.
Brighouse Town striker Hallam made sure that there would be no comeback on the cards however as he strode forward and notched his side’s fourth, before AFC Emley player Wdowczyk cracked home from the edge of the area, before completing his hat-trick and a 6-1 victory for the title aspirants.
There was also a good win in Division One for newly promoted Triangle, who recorded a 6-2 defeat of Elland Sports Reserves.
David Whiteley’s outfit picked up their first points at this level with goals from AJ Brown, Toby Rome, Dan Watson, Damian Cook (2) and James Snelson.
Sun Inn became the first former Brighouse SFL side to take to the field in a Premier Division match following the league merger three years ago, but came up short despite a spirited effort against FC Royal of Pellon.
Without last season’s leading marksman Rob Malone and with influential midfielder Tom Gorringe on the injury list, a late SOS call to Adrian Kelly paid dividends. The Rastrick side found themselves two goals down at the interval, but a Kelly strike and goal from Ben Timson put them back in contention.
The visitors grabbed the key goal with ten minutes remaining however and with Sun pushing on stole in for another to inflict a 4-2 defeat on the new boys, who at least have now had a taste of their new surroundings.
In Division Two, Rastrick Bowling Club boss Kevin O’Brien put more firepower on his pre-season wish list and his improved squad came up trumps in their opener against new club King Cross Park FC.
Despite the Bank Holiday period robbing the manager of half a dozen players, they worked themselves into a comfortable 4-1 half time lead. Marshall Riley proved the biggest threat as he grabbed a brace, whilst Frank Cullen and Craig Mitchell also netted to put their side into the ascendency.
A sloppy start to the second half saw King Cross reply from the penalty spot, but once Jordan Dobson’s header had reasserted Rastrick’s dominance, it was left to Cullen to latch onto a pin-point Rick Mellor pass and grab his second and a 6-2 triumph.
Top Club also enjoyed a profitable opening to the campaign, as they fired eight past recently relegated Halifax Rangers in an 8-4 win.
Fixtures (kick off 11am Sunday and 6pm evenings)
Sunday, September 2: Sun Inn v King Cross Sports FC (Carr Green)
Thursday, September 6: Mount Tabor v Sun Inn (Natty Lane)
Sunday, September 2: Halifax Hammers v Triangle (Savile Park); Stallions FC v Thornhill Briggs (Savile Park); Waiters Arms v Old Pond (Greetland Comm. Centre)
Tuesday, September 4: Old Pond v Bradshaw (Lane Head); Triangle v Hollins Holme (Savile Park); Thornhill Briggs v Waiters Arms (Hipp. & Light. H.S.)
Sunday, September 2: Hebden Bridge AFC v Rastrick Bowling Club (White Lee Rec, Myth’royd); Top Club v Greetland Goldstars (Lane Head)
Tuesday, September 4: Hens Face v Top Club (Savile Park); Rastrick Bowling Club v North Bridge FC (Carr Green)