You can’t help but wonder what the odds might have been on Wetherby Athletic’s 3-2 win over Beeston St Anthony’s on Saturday.
The home side, cut adrift at the bottom of the West Yorkshire Association Premier League and winless in their opening ten league games, welcomed last season’s treble winners with nine teenagers in their thirteen man squad. Title-chasing Beeston arrived with a raft of the league’s international-quality representative side, just three points behind league leaders Carlton. The chances of an upset were minimal.
“I’ve had tweets and messages from all sorts of people around Yorkshire,” said Wetherby boss Mark Foster, who has announced that he will retire from management at the end of this season after nearly two decades service to non-league football.
“Nobody could have expected us to achieve what we did on Saturday, it had a real David versus Goliath feel to it. To beat the county champions is unbelievable, but I suppose every once in a blue moon these things happen in sport.”
A classy hat-trick by all-action midfielder Arran Horton did the damage for Foster’s side, who had scored only six goals in the entire league season leading into the game. The 27 year old has provided much needed experience since his debut for the club only a few weeks ago, and who’s signing represents a rare positive in what was a desperate offseason for Wetherby.
“Arran has been great and has been very helpful with the younger guys,” said Foster, “He’s a coach at Leeds United so he knows his football, and he’s clearly a very good player.”
“We lost seven of our first eleven and found recruitment very difficult. After finishing fifth last year following three years of really good progress we had the wind taken out of us by losing so many key players and we’ve been knocked back to the beginning. It’s like playing a game of snakes and ladders and losing.”
Wetherby remain four points short of second-bottom Oxenhope Recreation, who they take on on Saturday, and whilst Foster says his side have an outside chance of survival, his focus is on leaving his replacement a squad in the best possible fettle regardless of their eventual position.
“We’ve got no right to stay up in this league,” he admitted, “but hopefully we can take some confidence from Saturday and hang in there for as long as possible. We’ll be trying our damndest to stay up, but it’s clear it’s going to be very tough.”
After four successful years, the club hope to identify a new manager in the coming weeks and to have them in place working alongside Foster, who has worked at Harrogate Town among other clubs, in the new year.
“The most important thing for us is to use this season as an opportunity to play and develop. Working with these young lads is great. They were all absolutely buzzing after the game on Saturday and that was so infectious. It really does make it all worthwhile.”
Beeston’s defeat wasn’t the only unexpected tumble at the top, as third placed Field were edged out by Robin Hood Athletic. A Thomas Smith goal was enough to earn the away side only their fourth win of the season and take them twelfth.
The Beeston and Carlton double slip allowed Carlton Athletic to open up a six point lead in the title race as they stretched their perfect start to the season to nine games with a 6-1 win at Horbury Town. Scott Hargreaves scored his eighth and ninth goals in just six league games for the leaders, who have now plundered an impressive 40 goals this term.
Leeds City overcame Oxenhope Recreational 4-3 to move into fourth thanks to goals from Ciaran Mallon, Sean Fitzpatrick and a double for second half substitute Andrew Crossland.
There were fewer upsets in Division One, where the top three sides returned victories.
Unbeaten table toppers Hall Green United did as expected by beating relegation threatened Otley Town 5-0, with goals for Daniel Empsall, Jamie Miller, John Moore and a double for Wayne Ball, whilst Wyke Wanderers remained hot on their heels with a 4-0 thrashing of Boroughbridge.
Third placed Howden Clough beat Whitkirk Wanderers 5-2, whilst Leeds Modernians recorded the same scoreline at East End Park with another brace for the in-form forward Danny Claxton. The win takes the Mods into fourth, leapfrogging Hartshead, who could only scrape a 1-1 draw with Featherstone Colliery.
Elsewhere, Aberford Albion beat Kippax 4-0, whilst Huddersfield Amateur had a double from Matthew Parker to thank for a 3-2 win over Swillington Saints.