Beeston St Anthonys’ surge into third place in the West Yorkshire Association Premier Division is an achievement for the club to be proud of, says their manager Mark Halmshaw.
Last season’s treble winners, who have languished in mid-table this campaign, won two games last week to catapult themselves above a host of sides and nestle themselves behind only Leeds City and champions-in-waiting Carlton Athletic.
“We’re in a rebuilding stage, there’s no doubt about that,” Halmshaw said. “I’ve been recruiting players right up until the start of March and we’re looking at putting the building blocks in place ready for next season.
“Quite a number of players moved on for a number of reasons and some have had a season off and left football altogether, despite being quite young.
“To be in third place and still be looking at three cup competitions having been through what we’ve been through is more than creditable.”
Beeston’s efforts to play catch-up on the rest of the league in terms of games played took them to a Tuesday-night game at Shelley, where Halmshaw witnessed what he described as the side’s best performance of the season in a 4-2 win.
“We were brilliant,” he said. “We started brightly and were completely dominant in the first half, sharp in all areas of the pitch. We went 3-0 up just after half-time and maybe let them into the game for 10 minutes or so, but regained control afterwards and shut them out.”
Centre-half Richard Vennard scored the first of two goals in the week, as did Stephen Crawford. Top scorer James Allan was on hand to net his 19th of the campaign, but it was 18-year-old Joe Wood who Halmshaw was quick to single out for praise.
“He’s been brilliant, and the Shelley game was only his third game starting for us.
“You wouldn’t know it, but he’s never played open-age football before. I’ve known him since he was seven, coaching junior a team with my son at Bramley Villages Juniors, and I got him in because I knew he was ready.”
Fast-forward four days, and Halmshaw’s side produced another strong performance against an under-par Knaresborough Town. Allan, Crawford and Vennard were again the goalscorers in a 3-0 win.
“Without being disrespectful, it was a lot more straightforward,” Halmshaw said. “Knaresborough had a very young side out and if I’m being honest, there wasn’t really much of a threat and we ended up going through the motions a touch.”
What Halmshaw did find pleasing was Crawford’s second of the week, a signal that the attacking midfielder is getting back to his best after what has been a tricky season for the club’s reigning player of the year.
“He’s struggled a little bit this year, but only because of the high standards he has made for himself,” admitted Halmshaw. “We’ve seen a little bit more from him in the last couple of games and he’s been brilliant. The goals are just the reward for the hard work he puts in.”
With the League & District Cup semi-final against Robin Hood coming up this weekend, the League Cup quarter-final at the start of April and a crunch Northern Counties Cup-tie against west Lancashire outfit Corinthians on the horizon, the club faces a congested few weeks as they fight on all fronts.
“Like I say, it’s been a more than creditable season for the club and we can be proud of what we have achieved so far. If we take the form we’ve enjoyed this week into the rest of the season, I’m more than confident that we can progress.”
One trophy they have little hope of lifting is that of the Premier Division, where Carlton Athletic sneaked past nearest rivals Leeds City 2-1 to make it an incredible 17 wins from 17 league games.
There were draws aplenty elsewhere in the division as Shelley and Sherburn White Rose played out a 1-1 stalemate whilst Wetherby and Robin Hood drew 3-3, with Joshua Wilson netting a hat-trick for the relegation-threatened home side.
Ilkley Town moved another point closer to safety as they drew 3-3 with Horbury Town thanks to a last-minute equaliser from substitute Jack Bullock. The home side were 3-1 down with 15 minutes to go before the interventions of Tim Edney and then Bullock.