WHEN Pool AFC set out to plan their 50th birthday celebrations, it’s fair to say they didn’t quite have this in mind.
The club have taken just 13 points from their opening 15 games and find themselves second from bottom of a league they finished fifth in last season.
Goals from Tom Smith and Nick Hewitt secured three of those points in a confident 2-0 win against Hunslet on Saturday and manager Paul Newsome is confident his side can play their way out of the relegation conversation.
“We’re half a dozen points from the teams at halfway,” Newsome said. Like the rest of the teams around us, all we need is to get a good little patch of form together and you can find yourself a fair way up there.
“It’s not always easy to do that when you’re down there, but it’s about sticking to what you’re good at and making sure you pick up points from those around you, which is what we managed to do on Saturday.”
Hunslet are now just two points ahead of Pool and sit in 11th place, while eighth-placed Knaresborough are just six points off in a heavily-congested lower-half.
“It was a really important win from that point of view,” Newsome admitted. “We needed to get ourselves going and close the gap a bit.”
Newsome missed the start of the season through holiday and says that, plus a particularly harsh deal from the fixture card, made it difficult to recover any sort of momentum in the first half of the campaign.
He reasoned: “It was a really tough start to the season. We took a bit of a drumming from Beeston when we had a man sent off and then lost to Ilkley and Leeds City. If you look at how the league table is, well, they’re your hardest games.
“That’s not me saying anything bad on the guys who were around, either, but the manager has more of a presence. There was a bit of complacency too, I think, a sense that because we came fifth last year we would do all right this year.”
Newsome also says his side will stay true to their footballing principles in their hunt for breathing space and that when the football club’s half-century is officially celebrated in 2018 the side will be in a far better position.
He added: “We’re not too far away, we play good football and we have been creating chances. Sometimes the fact we try to play goes against us and teams who play ‘back-to-front’ stuff get results over us.
“I’m not getting carried away after Saturday but I’m confident we’ll be fine. We just need to get a good little patch going.” Another team who did their survival chances a world of good were Hartshead, who leapfrogged their opponents Headingley and went into tenth place after a 2-1 win, whilst Robin Hood, in 13th, took a surprise point from a 1-1 draw with fifth-place Horbury.
There were no shocks elsewhere, where high-flying duo Leeds City and Ilkley Town recorded breezy 4-0 wins over Hall Green and Huddersfield Amateur respectively. The victories bring them closer to top side Beeston St Anthony’s, whose match against Field was postponed.
In Division One, Wyke Wanderers moved one point behind leaders Rawdon Old Boys with a 3-2 win at second-bottom Oxenhope Recreation. Rawdon were held to a 1-1 draw at home to seventh-placed East End Park.
Wyke Wanderers manager Hayden Fox is relishing a Division One title race that, at the halfway point, looks set to be a classic, writes ALEX MILLER.
If third-placed Featherstone Colliery and fourth-placed Whitkirk Wanderers win their games in hand only two points will separate the top four, with Fox’s Wyke just a point back on table-topping Rawdon Old Boys.
“It’s a competitive league, that’s for sure,” Fox said. “The top four are beginning to pull away from the rest now and it should be a good battle. We’ve got a couple of injuries now and, as we enter the bad weather and muddy pitches, that might not suit us. We’ve not got that many big players and in the second half the big, powerful teams can take over, but we’ll see.”
Rawdon, who blinked with a 1-1 draw with East End Park, allowing Wyke to get within a point thanks to a last-minute Karl Fawcett winner in a 3-2 victory over second-bottom Oxenhope Rec. There were no such jitters by the other top teams as Whitkirk despatched Howden Clough in a 6-1 win that included a Glenn Hendrix triple, while Featherstone also had a hat-trick hero in the form of Jordan Hale as they beat Brighouse Old Boys 5-3.
“Featherstone have surprised a little bit because we gave them a bit of a beating, but they keep picking up points,” admitted Fox. “Rawdon are a good team, we can see that. They are very organised and have clearly grown up playing together, so I see them as our main challenge. I can see how they can be beaten though, I think. Our aim is to win the league.”
Peeking over the wall are fifth-placed Boroughbridge, who beat Kippax 2-0, whilst Wetherby Athletic’s resurgence continued in a 5-4 win over Aberford Albion. Further down the table, Leeds Modernians and Altofts shared a 1-1 draw.
West Riding County Amateur League
WAKEFIELD City netted three times at DRAM Community FA but were still denied their second win of the season through a 3-3 draw which left them bottom of the Premier, writes LEE SOBOT.
Jermaine Moyce, Joe Penn and Nash Connolly all netted for Wakefield but a brace from Tebo M’Pala plus a Joel Franklin gave ninth-placed DRAM A draw.
Seventh-placed Littletown also shared a 3-3 draw with eighth-placed visitors Thornton United. Joe Jagger’s double was supported by a Patrick Sykes strike for Littletown but a Luke Hepton treble bagged Thornton a share of the spoils.
Leaders Salts fell to only their second league loss of the season as hosts Golcar United moved second with a 5-1 romp. Callum Meade’s double was backed up by strikes from David Conway, Carl Aitkin and Mick Tunnacliffe with only Jonny Cunnington on the mark for Salts.
Campion dropped to third after a 2-1 loss at Lepton Highlanders who moved off the foot of the division. Goals from Jacob Robertson and Ben Bowstead did the business for Lepton in the face of a Campion reply from Matthias Britton.
Thirteen goals were scored at Route One Rovers who dropped to fifth after being chinned 7-6 by Britannia Sports who moved tenth.
Waheed Khan netted four times for Rovers whose Ali Hasan and Haroon Dad also struck but Sports took a remarkable win thanks to three goals from Kieran Lenihan and two from Kian Jordan plus one each from Ben Womack and Ryan Lech.
Steeton climbed to fourth as two goals from Andy Briggs plus one from Sam Rooke ensured a 3-2 win at Lower Hopton who are now second bottom. Liam Roya and Michael Calvert both netted the hosts.
In Division One, third-bottom Tingley Athletic fell to a fifth league loss of the season through a 3-1 reverse at third-placed Steeton Reserves. Jermaine Savoury’s strike was not enough for Tingley who were undone by a Brannan Lawn double and Greg Hudson solo.
Overthorpe Sports Club went fifth thanks to a 3-2 triumph at home to bottom of the table Bradford.
Two goals from Jack Angus and one from Tim Clark outweighed the Bradford double from Dave Rooney.
Leaders Ovenden West Riding march on as second-bottom visitors Hunsworth were blitzed 8-1.
John Booth claimed a treble and Terry Ryan a double as Andrew Bailey Greg Porter, Hunsworth and Jordan Wadsworth all added a goal each. Jack Cooper consoled the visitors.
Second-placed Golcar United Reserves went in 6-1 at fourth-bottom West Horton as Gavin Armitage, Toby Barrington and Elliott Mitchell hit three, two and one respectively. Fabian Evans netted a penalty for the hosts.
TVR United climbed to seventh as efforts from Asif Iqbal. Danny Hussain. Jinaid Taj sank sixth-placed visitors Unita 3-2. Paul Noble and Nicky Lalouis were on target for Unita.