Record-chasing Garforth Town packed a punch when they returned to league action at Chorley on Saturday – and they will be aiming to show they still have a knockout blow in the West Riding County Cup when they start their defence of the trophy this evening.
Garforth, who are bidding to become only the third side ever and the first for 30 years to win the cup for a third season in a row, belatedly start their campaign at home to Evo-Stik First Division North rivals Ossett Albion – weather permitting.
Town received a bye in the first round of the competition and have already seen their second-round clash postponed on three occasions, but they had their first run-out for 18 days at the weekend and showed no signs of frostiness as they beat title-chasing Chorley 2-1 on their own patch.
Boss Steve Nichol was delighted with both the result and the performance, which he feels was helped by a training regime at Burmantofts Amateur Boxing Club during the enforced break. And he is hoping his side produce the same show of strength to put Albion on the ropes this evening, with a trip to either Eccleshill United or Thackley awaiting in the quarter-finals.
Nichol said: "It was a fantastic performance by the players at Chorley. I don't think many people fancied us going there and getting something from the game.
"But this is a new team which only came together at the start of the season, they will grow stronger as the season moves forward, and I thought on Saturday we pretty much played the perfect game. I was pleased with the result, pleased with the performance and pleased with
every single player.
"We played some top-class football and controlled the game for long periods. Chorley had a lot of possession but we defended brilliantly and ground out the result which is something we haven't done all season. I think the boxing training helped. I don't know what other teams have been doing during the break but we have trained hard over the last couple of weeks.
"I think a lot of footballers can learn a lot from the mental approach of boxers, and it's a great way of keeping them fit as well while they are not playing.
"We have been doing other things as well. We have been on the bikes at Rothwell Leisure Centre and been training indoors on Astroturf – pretty much everything we could think of."
The application paid off on Saturday when a Paul Walker goal gave Garforth the lead across the Pennines and though Dale Whitham hit back, Nichol's men battled on and deservedly grabbed a last-minute winner through Chris Howarth.
They will now be looking for more of the same this evening when they will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of Goole – in the 70s – and Guiseley – from 1979-81 – who have both won the trophy three years on the bounce.
Nichol said: "Our priority is always the league but this cup is special to us given what has happened in the competition in the last two years.
"It's been a great privilege to win it twice. We have the trophy back
in the office and looking back at the teams who have won it, Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and Bradford City are all on there.
"It would be great to retain it again and equal the record, and maybe even go on and beat it.
"It's not a bad draw in the next round, either. We have avoided some of the bigger teams in the area, but we have to get past Ossett Albion first."
Eccleshill, who lost their home first-round clash to Bradford Park Avenue but were reinstated in the competition when it emerged their visitors had fielded an ineligible player, have home advantage against Northern Counties East League outfit Thackley this evening.
Leeds Carnegie travel to Askern Villa and Liversedge host Pontefract Collieries in other all-NCE League clashes.
Farsley and Barnoldswick face Evo-Stik opposition, travelling to Harrogate Railway and hosting FC Halifax Town respectively.
Brighouse have a tough test at Guiseley while Goole also face a Blue Square Bet North side, taking on Harrogate Town at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds.
Meanwhile, Tadcaster Albion are at home to Hallam in the NCE League Premier Division tonight while, in Division One, Hemsworth are at Teversal and Yorkshire Amateur play host to Bottesford Town.