Last year’s Halifax AFL runners-up Northowram and Division One champions Shelf FC shared six goals in a keenly contested and occasionally feisty encounter on Friday evening.
There was little to choose between the sides on an uncut pitch before Northowram, playing down the slope, took the lead on 27 minutes with an audacious first-time effort from last season’s league young player of the year Lewis Oldridge over the keeper.
Shelf were back on terms six minutes later when Josh Hans skilfully converted a cross and they went in front two minutes later when a clumsy challenge from Chris Gent gave O’Keefe the opportunity to hammer home the penalty.
Shelf extended their lead six minutes into the second half after O’Keefe’s determination saw him keep the ball in play and his pinpoint cross was nodded home by the unmarked Hans.
Oldridge had a half chance saved and Matthew Rushworth fired over from Gent’s cross. Shelf headed against a post and had Josh Hartley dismissed on the hour for an inappropriate remark to the referee.
Rams’ new signing Cameron Millar was fouled 13 minutes from the end and Oldridge dispatched the penalty.
Four minutes from time, Rushworth’s header was bundled off the line and substitute Scott Singleton stabbed home the equaliser.
Ryburn United were 5-2 winners at home to Midgley United, eventually getting on top against a team containing five under 19s.
The visitors took the lead via two of their more experienced players, Rob Stansfield scoring with a good header from Greg Spink’s free-kick.
Joe Swallow equalised after a goalkeeping error but Liam Highgate gave the visitors a 2-1 interval lead.
Ryburn had started to press before the break and drew level through George Turner.
An unfortunate own goal, when the ball went in via Joe Gibson’s thigh, was the turning point.
Although Gareth Swain made a couple of good saves, efforts from Turner and Reece Uttley took Ryburn clear.
Visiting boss Craig Gee said: “I don’t like to lose but for an hour we gave a good account of ourselves.”
Strike ace Lewis Cockroft opened the season with a hat-trick for Hebden Royd Red Star but his side were beaten 5-3 by Calder ‘76 in the derby game at Calder Holmes.
Rick Topham and James Megson bagged two each for Calder and Steve Jones got the other.
Last season’s Division One runners-up Sowerby Bridge opened with a 6-2 home win over Greetland.
The bulk of their goals came from Lee Wood (three) and Damian Watkins (two)
The Division One games were split between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon while there were full programmes in the lower divisions on Saturday.
There were impressive away wins for Denholme United (7-1 at Crossley’s), Brighouse Sports (5-0 at Holmfield) and Copley United (5-0) at Salem in the first division.
Denholme’s Jack Harrison bagged four goals and there was a hat-trick for Brighouse’s Josh Robinson.
Elland Allstars were 5-2 home winners against Calder ‘76 Reserves and the closest match in the section was at Trinity Academy where Illingworth St Mary’s Reserves were 3-2 winners against the team that beat them to bottom section honours last season, Ivy House.
The teams cancelled each other out in a goalless first half.
As bodies tired the game opened up and substitute Rohan Ford, on his debut, reacted quickest in the box to put Saints ahead.
Ivy were awarded a penalty moments later when Scott Hamilton brought down the dangerous Jake Kennedy and Isaac Nicholls scored.
Josh Brown looked to have won it for Ivy with a fine header but Saints responded immediately through a Tom Mcgregor 20-yarder.
The closing stages saw Saints’ younger side get on top and Ford’s excellent break and finish sealed the points.
In Division Two, FC Plummet Line had a hard-earned 3-1 victory over Northowram Reserves.
The Rams had an early penalty, but Matty Berry redeemed himself for conceding it with a fine save.
Plummet went ahead when Berry’s kick was flicked on by Liam Calvert for new strike partner Josh Hunt to slot home.
Hunt returned the favour for Calvert 15 minutes later but Northowram pulled a goal back in the second half with a low finish from Karl Amos.
Northowram pressed but Plummet sealed victory with a Calvert penalty.
St Columba’s and Junction Inn drew 1-1 at Carr Green Lane.
Saints had the better of the first half but couldn’t convert their chances, Junction came back and took the lead with five minutes remaining when a 60 yard clearance bounced over the keeper and into the top corner of the net.
However, a dangerous free kick from Jack Dobson created confusion in the box and the impressive George Cook nodded home the equaliser.
Midgley Reserves were 4-2 winners in the derby game away to Hebden Royd Red Star.
Midgley were looking comfortable with a 3-0 lead in the second half, but Star got it back to 3-2 after first team striker Lewis Cockroft, playing as ‘keeper, beat numerous rivals in a run upfield to set up one of the Star goals.
However, Louis Marlow got the clincher for Midgley with an excellent chip 10 minutes from time.
Joe Casey’s hat-trick helped Sowerby Bridge Reserves win 4-2 away to their Shelf United counterparts while Greetland Reserves romped to an 8-3 win over Crossley’s Reserves.
The league’s new or returning teams were in action in three Division Two games.
Brighouse Sports Reserves won 3-2 away to Mixenden United and there were 4-2 successes for Stainland United at home to Flying Dutchman and FC Ovenden away to Warley Rangers. Dion Oczrabuk scored all of Ovenden’s goals.