Sunday 3rd January 2021 (Wharfedale Triangle League Premier Division):
Salts v Eldwick postponed;
Sporting Pudsey 2, Leeds City Rovers 6.
Sunday 20th December 2020 (Wharfedale Triangle League Premier Division):
Horsforth Fairweather 7
Bell, Jones, Archer, Shapland
Jeffrey, Hoyle, Bogdanos, B.Canning
Subs: Pickering, Lancaster, Monaghan, Skillern, Abbott
Scorers: Litvinov 3 (1 pen), Hawes 4
Coming into the game off the back of two successive defeats, Horsforth rang the changes for this one.
An entirely new midfield quartet was planned, with Sam Jeffrey, Christos Bogdanos and Ben Canning coming into the side, and the late withdrawal of Liam Bennett through injury resulted in a recall for Kev Hoyle, who took over as captain again.
In defence, Reece Archer started alongside regulars Shane Bell, Chris Jones and Dave Shapland, with Jonathan Postle in goal as usual.
Gary Litvinov moved up front to partner James Hawes.
It was obvious straight away that Eldwick, who arrived at the ground with a bare 11 players, were going to struggle, but the first half didn't go entirely our way.
We scored from a tame penalty after 11 minutes, when Sam was fouled, Gary reliable as ever from the spot, but survived a few scares at our end, including a goal disallowed for a marginal offside, before we netted from open play.
On 29 minutes Hawesy met Shane's inviting cross from the right to double the lead, and in the 42 minute the same player met Ben's corner for another headed goal.
Not sure we'd been great value for a 3-0 half-time lead, but it was hard now to see a way back into the game for the away side.
Horsforth had to replace the much-fouled Sam at the break, Matty Pickering taking over in midfield.
In the second minute of the second half, Gary went on the rampage down the left wing, and rifled a shot home at the near post to make it four.
More changes were needed now, as the impressive Christos was forced to retire, though again we had a tailor-made replacement available in George Lancaster.
On 17 minutes, Gary had a shot well saved, but the ball rebounded to Hawesy, who completed his hat-trick turning and lobbing the ball into the net.
Luke Monaghan and yet another regular starter Steve Skillern were brought into the action at this stage, and Horsforth were by now markedly in control of the game.
Skilly's impact was immediate, intercepting the ball out on the left wing and presenting Gary with a chance to bag his own hat-trick.
When Gary's inspired pass was controlled and swept home by Hawesy for a seventh goal, there was still twenty minutes left to play, and Horsforth were able to call on yet another quality reinforcement in Callum Abbott.
But credit must be given to the Eldwick lads, who were in effect playing 11 men against 16 today yet they never stopped attacking at every opportunity. They scored the game's final goal, with the referee turning down our half-hearted appeals for offside, and it was no more than their positive attitude merited.
So the 7-1 result must speak for itself in many respects, and after a tentative opening the game did end up being a bit of a rout.
Horsforth's stronger squad was probably the main reason the points went our way today, and all those who took part can look back on the match with some satisfaction.
I'd say the performance was focused and determined, rather than inspired, and I guess that's exactly what we needed after the previous games.
And, among many positives to take from this morning, it was most encouraging to see some of newer faces in the squad getting a chance to prove their worth, and taking it.
Other league games:
Rawdon FC v Leeds City Rovers postponed;
Shadwell United v Keighley Athletic postponed;
Sporting Pudsey 1, Horsforth Saints 2;
Yeadon FC 2, Salts 2.
Sunday 13th December 2020 (Wharfedale Triangle League Premier Division):
Horsforth Fairweather 2
FC United of Baildon 3
Bell, Jones, Howarth, Shapland
Lancaster, Pickering, Litvinov, Skillern
Subs: Bogdanos, B.Canning, Scott, Jeffrey, Monaghan
Scorers: Hawes, Abbott
Cautioned: Lancaster (unsporting behaviour)
Facing a bit of an injury crisis, Horsforth were nevertheless able to field a strong side, with David Shapland returning to the back line, albeit he was one of three defenders who passed late fitness tests.
With Liam Bennett dropping out injured, we moved Gary Litvinov back into midfield, and started with Callum Abbott up front alongside James Hawes.
The first half was a steady affair for 40 minutes, both teams doing their best under trying conditions, and few chances as defences were generally to the fore.
All that changed just before the break, as Jonathan Postle made a great save down by his post, only to see the ball rebound to a Baildon striker who swerved round a couple of defenders before finding the opposite corner of the net.
Undaunted, Horsforth struck back immediately when Matt Pickering's through ball was splendidly met by Hawesy, and we changed ends level at 1-1.
I'd say we began the second half particularly well, and were beginning to look the better side when after 13 minutes Shappy's left wing cross was only half-cleared, and the increasingly influential Callum turned and lobbed the ball into the empty net.
Unfortunately, we couldn't capitalise on this brief advantage, and six minutes later Baildon were level.
The chance arose just after a great piece of defensive work from Shappy, but from his tackle the ball broke to the away side, and the quick cross from deep was met with a tap-in from close range.
Thereafter, it was a tale of two penalties.
When desperate defensive work from Gary resulted in a spot kick from which Baildon scored, there were still 20 minutes left, and Horsforth were able to call on a posse of substitutes to try and save the game against a tiring away side.
However, with a mixture of good fortune and some inspired saves, they held us out right until the last minute, when we were denied what seemed to me a stonewall penalty, a decision which resulted in a few unseemly moments at the end of the match, and the points went to Baildon.
Regular readers know, I hope, these match reports are usually pretty honest: when we're deservedly beaten, I'm the first to say so, and when we turn in a poor display I tell you that too.
Today then, I honestly thought we were very unlucky to lose.
We left our revival a bit late, to be fair, but did more than enough in the closing stages to have salvaged at least a point, and the last-gasp penalty would have been no more than we deserved.
And overall, this was one of our better performances, the result notwithstanding, and immense credit must go to all who responded to the reverse of last week, but especially the players who turned out (and some went the full 90 minutes) when less than fully fit.
Other league games:
Eldwick 3, Yeadon FC 6;
Keighley Athletic v Sporting Pudsey postponed;
Leeds City Rovers 4, Shadwell United 0;
Salts 3, Rawdon FC 1.
Sunday 6th December 2020 (Wharfedale Triangle League Premier Division):
Rawdon FC 5
Horsforth Fairweather 3
Bell, Jones, Howarth, B.Canning
Lancaster, Pickering, Bennett, Hawes, Skillern
Subs: Scott, Bogdanos, Monaghan, Jeffrey; unsued sub: Abbott
Scorer: Litvinov 3 (2 pens)
Cautioned: Postle, Skillern (both unsporting behaviour)
The four-week lockdown layoff had not helped anyone of course, but Horsforth returned to the action with a display that was a pale shadow of our memorable autumn performances.
By way of excuses, we had two key players out injured -
Kev Hoyle was replaced in midfield by Liam Bennett, and left-back David Shapland by Ben Canning - but those were the only two team changes.
On the muddy pitch at Shaw Lane, the first half started as a fairly even contest, and even when the home side ran through and opened the scoring after 17 minutes it seemed only a matter of time before we got our own game into gear.
Probably the key moment of the game was in the 25th minute, when Steve Skillern and James Hawes combined down the left and set up a chance for stand-in captain Gary Litvinov, only to see the referee belatedly and controversially blow for offside, and this set the scene for a series of incidents which all seemed to go against us, and affected our concentration more than it should have done.
On 31 minutes, Jonathan Postle dashed from his goal to intercept another attack, and upended the Rawdon forward. The referee awarded a penalty, though Pos swore the collision was outside the area, and the lead was doubled.
We lost our way a bit from this point, and were indebted to Pos for keeping the score manageable, but ten minutes later even he could do nothing when the home side extended their lead from what was admittedly a very well-taken free kick.
Just before the break, however, our luck seemed to have changed when a Rawdon defender needlessly handled a shot that was going wide, and Gary put the penalty away.
Playing down the significant slope for the second half and with Hawesy now pushed forward as a second striker, we maybe fancied our chances even at 3-1 down, but with eight minutes it was 5-1, as our defence was embarrassed when the home side capitalised on our need to chase the game, and from here it was difficult to see a way back into the contest.
That said, we reduced the deficit on 10 minutes, when a long punt from Pos was brilliantly turned into a scoring chance by Gary, but from this point, the game became a bit bogged down in a midfield battle.
We brought on Dave Scott and Christos, then Sam Jeffrey and Luke Monaghan, changing the shape a couple of times as the home team began to tire.
And we did make a few chances to score, Dave in particular counting himself unlucky not to get on the scoresheet, but in all fairness I should add that Rawdon also might have extended their lead on occasions, with Pos called on to add to his portfolio of earlier saves.
A late penalty gave Gary his hat-trick (he's now scored 18 goals in his last 6 games), but that did little except make the result look a bit more respectable; it was hard to deny that overall the better side had won.
Much has already been said elsewhere about the causes of this reverse, and I've no wish to add to the general doom and gloom.
I just want to say I saw no lack of effort today, it was just the execution that was missing:
too much football in the wrong areas of the pitch perhaps, not really adapting our game to the conditions, that sort of thing.
And on another day we might have gotten away with it and scraped a result, but this time we left ourselves too much to do.
Well, there are always going to be days like this, every season, just a pity this one came at a time we'd been doing so well.
What counts is how we react to days like these.
Other league games:
Eldwick v Leeds City Rovers - away walkover;
FC United of Baildon v Keighley Athletic postponed;
Horsforth Saints 6, Shadwell United 0;
Salts 2, Yeadon FC 1.
Sundays 8th November to 29th November:
all games postponed due to Government restrictions.
Sunday 1st November 2020 (Wharfedale Triangle League Premier Division):
Keighley Athletic 3
Horsforth Fairweather 7
Bell, Jones, Howarth, Shapland
Lancaster, Pickering, Hoyle, Hawes, Skillern
Subs: Bogdanos, Jeffrey, LD.Monaghan, B.Canning; unsued sub: T.Wilson
Scorers: Hoyle, Litvinov 2, Lancaster 3, Skillern
Horsforth were without central defender Reece Archer for the trip to Keighley, but the return of Dave Howarth was compensation, Jonesy keeping his place alongside him.
Other than that, it was as-you-were team-wise.
With just two minutes played, left winger Steve Skillern knocked a superb pass forward that found Kev Hoyle in space, and Horsforth's stand-in captain made no mistake from close range.
Five minutes later, James Hawes, making his mark in midfield these days, found the lone striker Gary Litvinov, and the lead was doubled.
We then went through a strange spell where we had the ball in the net three more times, all disallowed for offside, before, with a certain inevitability, the home team hit a goal back, when a clearance was fluffed and a simple chance opened up.
But Horsforth weren't to be denied; the team's mood was resolute throughout the game, and the work-rate on the heavy Marley pitch exceptional.
On 27 minutes right-winger George Lancaster and Gary combined for the former to score from a tight angle, and ten minutes later Matt Pickering won the ball and fed Gary who made it 4-1.
Regrettably, that was to be the striker's last contribution to the game, as he was forced off the field injured after a run of 15 goals in 5 matches, Christos Bogdanos his replacement ploughing the proverbial lone furrow.
Just before the break, George took a corner from the left, and in the scramble that ensued Matt's half-cleared shot found its way back to the corner-taker, who drilled it home at the near post.
The 5-1 half-time lead against a team who were champions of the Wharfedale Triangle as recently as 2018, and who had beaten us quite comprehensively when last we played them at their ground, was way beyond expectations, and the second half was a far more even contest.
We conceded after 11 minutes, as Jonathan Postle made one of many important saves on the day, but the ball broke loose and presented the Keighley strikers with a tap-in.
However, our work-rate never let up, and in the 15th minute of the half George took the ball off a defender and passed to Skilly, whose effort was half blocked by the keeper but its momentum took it into the net.
George clinched hit hat-trick with a superb solo run in the 24th minute, and with the points now safe Horsforth gave the subs a run-out: Sam Jeffrey, Luke Monaghan and Ben Canning (great to see Tom Wilson back on the bench by the way, though it was felt wisest not to rush him back into action today).
The home side, to their credit, never gave up, and scored the last goal of the day deep into injury time, taking just a little bit of the shine off our result.
Another excellent performance, and another great result against one of the league's better sides, marred only perhaps by a couple of defensive lapses.
With five wins out of five in the league, and now clear on points at the top of the table, Horsforth can only hope this form continues beyond the forthcoming lockdown period.
Other league games:
Horsforth Saints 2, Eldwick 1;
Leeds City Rovers 4, Salts 1;
Shadwell United v FC United of Baildon postponed;
Yeadon FC v Sporting Pudsey postponed.
This page last updated 03/01/2021.