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West Yorkshire League: Whitkirk give youth a ‘leg up’ the pyramid

Whitkirk Wanderers joint-manager, Les Nelson. PIC: Tony Johnson
Whitkirk Wanderers joint-manager, Les Nelson. PIC: Tony Johnson
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Whitkirk Wanderers are looking to balance youth development and league results as they step-up their player-progression programme.

Joint first-team manager Les Nelson said: “We are currently trying to build a module which will see us take our younger teams right the way through into first-team football, with the introduction this year of our Under-23s playing in the Yorkshire Old Boys League [Yorkshire Amateur League].

“We are seeing some really exciting players doing well who will hopefully be making the step up through the ranks this season to play reserve and first-team football.”

Whitkirk have also linked up with various teams higher in the football pyramid, which Nelson hopes will showcase their best talent to help them move up the divisions.

“We’re working with numerous Northern Counties teams and above in terms of player progression.

“We’re aware we need to compete within the West Yorkshire League, but want to see players progress as much as possible.

“We’ve recently seen several players trial at Doncaster Rovers, and have two going to Harrogate Town shortly. Whitkirk have progressed several players this year into Northern Counties teams already.

“We’re also working closely with various local clubs within our area and farther afield to provide a footballing platform for talented players who haven’t in the past had the opportunity to play at this level for whatever reason.”

After a lightning start to their first season as a Premier Division side, Whitkirk have seen their momentum slow recently and are without a win in their last four games. However, Nelson insists that staying in the division is his target.

“The only aim this year was to stay up and compete in every game we play.

“We’ve tinkered with the team recently which, of course, has affected our recent results, but I do not believe in holding players back, so when an opportunity becomes available to move them on to the right club who look after players like we do, then they need to play higher.”

Many within the Premier Division believe Whitkirk could yet challenge the regular top three of Beeston St Anthony’s, Leeds City and Carlton Athletic for the title, something which fills Nelson with pride.

“To be spoken about with teams such as Carlton, Leeds and Beeston is a great compliment for all involved at Whitkirk and shows we are on the right track, as they all are great clubs with solid foundations who for years have battled it out for the top three positions.

“We would like to think over the next two seasons we could break that usual top three, but for now the goals are to bring as much youth through as possible and sustain league status.”

Whitkirk are now level on points in fifth with Hunslet, after Hunslet emerged from their battle with Whirkirk at the weekend with all three points in a 3-1 win.

Kyle Swithenbank scored twice for the visitors with Ben Thornton also on target. Two of the aforementioned top three in Carlton and Leeds also went head to head.

Carlton rose to second and narrowed the gap to Leeds to three points after their 4-2 victory. Anees Younis netted a brace, while Liam Moore and Andrew Payne secured the win.

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In Division One, Boroughbridge took full advantage of the top two’s cup commitments to go first with their 6-1 demolition of Otley Town, writes JAMIE WOODHOUSE.

Chris Simpson completed a hat-trick, while Jake Fletcher, Michael Snowden and Phil Wix also found the target. That defeat saw Otley drop to 15th as their search continues for that first win since August.

Wetherby Athletic are another side struggling and they dropped to the foot of the table at the weekend after their 1-0 loss at Newsome. Conor Sykes netted the 30th minute winner for Newsome, a victory which puts his side just one point off the Division One summit.

Oxenhope Recreation relinquished their tag of Division One’s basement club with their 2-0 win at East End Park. Daniel Moriaty netted both to lift Recreation above Otley and Wetherby in the table. In a battle to break free of the mid-table pack, neither Kippax nor Kirk Dreighton Rangers could gain ground, after their 1-1 draw.

In Division Two, Glasshoughton Rock retained their stranglehold on top spot with their 4-3 win at home to Baildon Trinity Athletic. Goals from Josh Prudhoe, Robbie Rice, Reece Sheldon and Jamie Simpson made it five straight wins for Rock in Division Two, in which time they have scored an incredible 30 goals.

Campion Reserves show little sign of halting their pursuit however after a 3-0 win at Old Centralians. Jordan Hagyard netted twice with Chris Hellewell also finding the target. That was Campion’s third consecutive victory as they stay just one point behind Glasshoughton with both sides going for promotion at their first attempt.

Another new side, Shelley Reserves, are making waves and that didn’t change at the weekend as they ran out 6-1 winners over fellow newcomers Tingley Athletic. Alex Thomas claimed a hat-trick for Shelley, while Ricardo Ianzito fired in a brace. Robert Bartram and Mikey Pearson completed the scoring.

The high-scoring theme continued at Swillington Saints who remain level on points with Shelley following their 6-4 win over Knaresborough Celtic. Edmore Murau scored twice with Ross Povey and Matt Vincent also finding the net, but braces from Aaron Lee and Jack Witcher, backed up by Matt Marshall and Billy Wood’s goals were enough to win it for Saints.