Although he’d love it if his side were to win the title this season, Carlton Athletic manager Mark Pitts is desperate not to become the West Yorkshire League’s version of Kevin Keegan.
Saturday’s 3-1 win at home to Knaresborough continued their 100 per cent record this league campaign and stretched their lead over the chasing pack to 14 points. Despite this, Pitts is desperate for his players not to take anything for granted.
“You can blow it,” he said. “We’ve already got a lot of injuries and suspensions and if you take your foot off the gas these can catch up with you.
“We’ve still got to play Beeston twice, we’ve got Field twice, there’s Leeds City, and to be fair, they’re all good sides. There are no easy games in this division.
“I want to make it clear that it’s not done and dusted by any means, and I keep thinking about Newcastle under Keegan! But if we carry on getting a few players back from injury, hopefully we’ll be pretty tough to overtake.”
Five players were called up from the reserve side to guard against unavailabilities on Saturday in a game that the leaders dominated.
“Both teams were a little short of full strength. We went 3-0 up and from there we controlled the game pretty well, to be honest it became a bit of a one way game. It was a good game to be fair.”
James Kirson, Reece Fennell and a penalty from Andrew Payne did the damage for Carlton, whilst Byron Littlefair netted a late consolation for Knaresborough, who remain seventh. Tom Griffiths saw red for the victors, which will only increase their suspension woes.
“They looked a decent side,” said Pitts. “They had a few missing as well and they really put us through our paces. We had to be on it, and thankfully we were.”
Fennell’s strike stretched his tally to 14 league goals this season, and with Carlton now at 67 goals from their 14 games, it’s a league they’re running away with, something that Pitts suggested may not be entirely down to his side’s performances.
“The standard of the league has dropped in general in the last few years. Losing Bardsey from the league was a big blow and since then I think it’s been clear the league is lacking a little bit of quality from where it was.
“Beeston winning the treble last year was huge as well and I think it’s been tough for them to motivate themselves. You rarely see teams even at the very top level go on to win doubles and trebles year after year, it’s really difficult.
“We’ve been a little bit lucky because we didn’t lose any players and we recruited well. Beeston have lost a few I think and maybe it will be our turn to have to do a little bit of rebuilding next season. They’ll tell you how tough it is to hold on to players, especially when a team is getting a lot of attention.
“It might be our turn to be in that situation now.”
With Beeston themselves not in action and enjoying an earlier winter break, it was over to Leeds City to represent the chasing pack and keep the heat on Carlton.
And they did with a rampant 8-1 win over relegation battling Brighouse Old Boys. A first-half hat-trick from Mark Ferguson set Leeds on their way before representative forward Barrie Frankland joined the party, netting three himself.
Luke Norman also begged, as did Jamie Insole, who also saw red. Substitute Jake Broadbent scored for Brighouse. In the division’s only other league match-up, Shelley dispatched bottom side Wetherby Athletic 3-0.
A rung down the ladder in Division One, Hartshead kept their promotion charge on track with a confident 4-1 victory against the stuttering Howden Clough.
Goals for Joel Farrar and Jamie Wasley, plus one apiece for subs Liam Fox and Andrew Wood, put Hartshead into the Christmas break in second, a point behind Hall Green United, who have four games in hand.
Leeds Modernians continued their run of form with a 5-2 win against East End Park, Swillington Saints picked up their first point in five with a 2-2 draw with Boroughbridge, and Otley Town’s woes showed no signs of easing as they were hammered 5-0 by fellow strugglers Whitkirk Wanderers.