Farsley Celtic Juniors suffered a big setback in their bid to retain their title as they were beaten 3-1 by Leeds Medics in an absorbing round of games in the Premier Division.
The champions had won seven of their previous eight matches going into clash at Weetwood but they were deservedly defeated by Steve Ledger’s side.
An early goal from Niall Robinson was added to by a curling John Forrest effort to take the Medics into half-time at 2-0.
Robinson got his second goal in the 75th minute to seal the result and ensure that Josh Maskill’s strike five minutes from time didn’t cause anything in the way of late panic.
Ledger was pleased with the manner of his team’s performance, saying: “If we had any chance at all of putting pressure on the top two then it was a game we had to win.
“We played some really neat, progressive football at a good tempo in the first half.
“Predictably Farsley pushed us and certainly had their chances in the second half but we managed to hold ourselves together.
“We’re very capable, given availability, and I think we proved that on Saturday.”
The state of play at the top of the table is that Stanley United have a one-point lead on Farsley with a game in hand, while Medics are two points behind Farsley in third having played a game more.
Leaders Stanley pulled off a pulsating 3-2 victory over Ealandians at Rothwell Sports Club to ensure the momentum stayed with them.
A James Parkinson own goal – that many felt should have been given to Josh Whiteley – handed the hosts the lead which didn’t last long with Wayne Crossley equalising after good work from 16-year-old Ash Muncaster.
The spell just after half-time was the crucial one for Stanley, who took a two-goal advantage with Whiteley on the scoresheet and Ben Huntingdon heading home.
In the 78th minute, Crossley set up Colin Schofield to make it 3-2 and set up a very nervy last 10 minutes which the table-toppers managed to ride out thanks to some outstanding defending from Russell Gill in particular.
Alwoodley, who have as many as five games in hand on the teams above them, beat Farnley Sports 3-0 at the Avenue in a match that was much closer than the scoreline would suggest.
Scott Horner’s struggling visitors had several good spells in the game and forced Luke Chadwick into good saves, but two goals in the first 10 minutes from Callum Armstrong and an own goal sank them in the end.
Armstrong has been nothing short of a revelation in his first season at the club and, as Farnley faded, he took advantage with his 16th goal of the campaign in the 70th minute.
Medics boss Ledger, looking on, believes the advantage is with Stanley in the title race but that their meeting with Alwoodley this weekend will be a crucial one.
“Stanley have the edge and it’s a question of whether they can make good use of their game in hand,” he said.
“I think it’s still more or less between Stanley and Farsley.
“If Alwoodley win on Saturday, which they need to, that would be a real line in the sand and would open the whole thing up.”
Two other games in the top flight – that held no immediate bearing on promotion or relegation issues – saw St Nicholas beat Beeston Juniors 3-1 and Stanningley defeat Grangefield 1-0 in a local derby.
It was an equally exciting weekend in the Championship in which Morley Town and Drighlington are the favourites to gain promotion.
Morley humbled Collingham Juniors 6-1 at Glen Road, with a hat-trick for Ryan Hartley, a brace for Aidan Philip and a goal for man of the match Jovan Kioseff.
Drighlington, meanwhile, beat fourth-placed Mount St Mary’s 2-0 as Johnny Kitchen converted a penalty and Shane Sowden netted another goal.
Leeds Medics Reserves lead the league but can’t gain promotion as their first team are in the top flight. They beat Alwoodley Reserves – set for relegation – 5-1 at Weetwood.
At the bottom, Shire Academics have effectively sealed survival with their performances in recent weeks that continued with a 4-0 stroll past Beeston St Anthony’s.
Thornesians pulled an unlikely victory out of the bag, defeating Calverley United 4-2, with strikes from David Toft, Chris Wilde, Ryan Baxby, Ryan Dobson and an own goal.
There was a glut of goals in Division One. Gildersome Spurs beat Old Batelians 8-0, St Bede’s put nine past Huddersfield YMCA and Leeds Medics seven past Grangefield Reserves.