BRIGHOUSE Town ushered in the New Year with a hard earned victory over their Bradford neighbours, Thackley.
As manager Paul Quinn said, it was not always pretty but the players’ attitude and commitment saw them grind out a win.
It is also fair to say that the sending off of Thackley’s Mark Bett after 40 minutes for abusing the referee did not help the visitors, but to their credit the 10 men worked incredibly hard and played well throughout.
Town made a bright start to the game and created an opening after only two minutes.
Luke Gibson cut in from the right towards the edge of the box before having his powerful shot blocked.
He then sent in a teasing cross that Tom Matthews struck low towards the bottom corner only for Matt Convey to make a brilliant save on to the foot of the post.
Thackley started to get into the game. Their front pairing of Bett and Nicky Matthews both looked dangerous in possession.
Matthews curled Thackley’s first attempt at goal round Ben Imeson’s post after five minutes and Ben Hardy had an instinctive volley clear the crossbar two minutes later.
In between, Nick Jagger was booked for an “over-aggressive” tackle where apparently no contact was made with the opposing player.
On a heavy pitch, Town were struggling to play at their usual tempo and Thackley’s build-up play was impressive at times.
Tom Matthews had a penalty shout turned down on nine minutes - contact, but probably not enough to warrant a spot kick.
Nicky Matthews then had a curling shot from the edge of the box well saved by Imeson and Thackley’s Keenan Ratcliffe, who was excellent throughout, saw his cross bounce off the top of the bar to safety.
Thackley were having a good spell of pressure, but Town centre backs Adam Wilson and Jagger were competing well for every ball, and with tenacious fullbacks like Tom Brown and Ryan Brook at the side of them, Town were ready to fight to keep their goal intact.
Bett fired a half chance over the bar but Hardy had the visitors’ best chance of the match when a crossfield pass sent him clear but Imeson rushed out to smother.
Greg Porter was tackling everything that moved in midfield and Anthony Haigh was using the limited possession but Town had to try get the forwards into the game.
Danny Naidole and Gibson were often forced into picking up possession from deep which meant making inroads into the Thackley defence difficult.
Five minutes before the break came the sending off when Bett needlessly got involved when the referee was booking Hardy for a foul.
Town made the perfect start to the second half against the 10 men, taking the lead on 47 minutes through Shane Hamilton, who reacted first when Gibson’s cross came into the box.
Anthony Haigh was inches away from making it 2-0 a minute later when his curling shot scraped the post.
Gibson had to be replaced by Sam Akroyd on 50 minutes with an ankle injury.
Both side’s centre backs put headers over the bar within minutes of each other - Firth first for Thackley, followed by Jagger for Town.
The lively Matthews for Town burst clear into the box but could not weave an opening to get a shot away.
Firth had a thumping header from a corner cleared off the line by Naidole on 58 minutes and as the pace of the game increased, good build-up by Town saw Akroyd cut into the box but Convey got down well to collect his near post cross.
Town got the all-important second goal on 66 minutes.
A minute earlier Tom Matthews had worked himself space to smash a shot against the Thackley crossbar, but he was not to be denied as his clever footwork left his marker grounded before firing home from an acute angle.
From the restart, Town nearly let Thackley get back into the game.
Good passing allowed Matt Hall space in the box but Imeson pulled of a great save with the Town defence then managing to clear the ball from the resulting goalmouth scramble.
Town introduced Danny Hull for Haigh with 20 minutes left, and the youngster’s work rate caused the visitors problems on an energy sapping pitch.
Thackley had to push forward to get back into the game but Town proved they were disciplined enough to get players behind the ball and try to hit Thackley on the break.
Hamilton chased the ball down and set up Matthews to shoot at keeper Convey, then Matthews returned the favour, robbing a defender in the box and squaring the ball for Hamilton’s shot to be cleared off the line.
Just before the final whistle, Imeson had time to save a near post effort from the hard working Nicky Matthews and claim a clean sheet he deserved.
Town’s attacking play never really clicked into gear as it has in recent weeks and a huge amount of credit should go to a very good Thackley side for that.
But it was very satisfying to see the team not get frustrated, stay disciplined and learn how to win a tight game.