Two wins in three days, scoring three goals each time, have lifted Pontefract Collieries to the top of Division One of the Toolstation NCE League.
Colls beat Dronfield Town 3-0 on Saturday after a 3-1 success against Rossington Main, also at home, in midweek and now have 19 points from their first eight league games with just one defeat so far.
In their latest game it took Ponte 40 minutes to open the scoring after a poor display initially, but they took control once Reece Hicks had netted.
Colls unveiled new boy Dean Wharam to the home fans with a proven goal scorer brought to the club and it meant more changes were made to the side.
Injuries continued to be a problem with Copping, Twibey, Kamara, Swift, and Whitehouse still out and others playing when not 100% fit. The list grew longer during the game with Radford limping off early in the first half and Catton following him half way through the second period. With Parry on maternity leave Luke Harling came back into the side and as usual proved a more than capable replacement.
Dronfield came to Ponte looking to end their dismal run of form since the clubs last met in the Cup. That desire to pick up points clearly showed for most of the first half as they put Ponte under the cosh.
Colls held firm, though, and Nigel Danby showed his class and experience by effectively snuffing out any attack that got into the box. When Dronfield did manage to by-pass him they found Harling to be in fine form with a number of point blank saves denying the visitors.
As the half wore on Ponte started to find their rhythm and started to play their neat passing game rather than the desperate long ball that had to be employed early on when Dronfield condensed play into the Ponte half. Gradually they managed to work a few chances on the counter as Arron Joseph started to control midfield along with his partner Hicks.
The pair combined perfectly on 40 minutes as Joseph beat three players to push the ball into the box for the onrushing Hicks to hammer home.
Managers Duncan Bray and Nick Handley clearly did their stuff at half-time as Ponte emerged in a much better frame of mind. They pressed Dronfield back and took control. Wharam started to show his quality up front as he and Rouse started to develop an understanding.
Ten minutes into the half an inch perfect ball cross field ball from Corbett dropped over the Dronfield defence and released Wharam. He then showed his quality by drawing the Dronfield keeper and lofting an inch perfect ball over his head and into the net to score his debut goal.
Dronfield refused to be beaten and continued to press for a goal but could find no way past Danby as he marshalled his defence.
Ponte put the icing on the cake bang on full-time as Dronfield failed to clear a corner and Rouse clipped past the stranded defenders for the third goal. In the end it was a good result for Ponte which took them to the top of the table as leaders Emley dropped points at Mansfield.
In midweek Colls had gone behind to an early goal and were forced to field a weakened team with several regulars injured, but hit back to run out comfortable 3-1 winners against Rossington Main.
With Kamara, Radford, Copping, Twibey, Whitehouse, Agus and Swift all out through injury and Rouse and Corbett both playing through injuries they were expecting a tough test, but produced a resilient display.
The long injury list forced manager Nick Handley (on his own for this game) to reshuffle the deck. New signing Iwan Heeley made his home debut on the right wing with Andy Catton on the opposite flank. Another new signing, Brad Riley, who had played 90 minutes for Frickley the night before, partnered Rouse up front.
Hicks was in midfield alongside Aaron Joseph in front of a back four of Craig Robinson, Nigel Danby, new boy Ryan Jennings and Josh Corbett with Craig Parry in goal.
The changes clearly affected Ponte and they took a while to settle, although the visitors had a lucky escape early on when Catton stormed into their box only to be bundled over by Zack Oakshott for a clear penalty. Having won the spot kick Catton claimed the right to take it, but this time his well struck effort was well saved by the keeper.
Things then got worse for Ponte as the experienced Lee Holmes showed why he is currently the division’s leading scorer by exploiting the unfamiliarity between the Ponte central defenders. With a quarter of an hour gone Holmes spun off Jennings and galloped past a flat-footed Ponte defence to hammer the ball past Parry and give Rossington a lead against the run of play.
Ponte gradually picked themselves up, started to play some quality passing football and began to dominate.
They levelled on 24 minutes with a bizarre goal as a defender aimed to clear Corbett’s free-kick from half-way only for the ball to cannon high into the air towards his own goal. What looked an easy claim for the uncontested Rossington keeper turned into his worst nightmare as the ball squirmed out of his grip and dropped gently into the net to make it 1-1.
Colls went on to dominate the second half and would have won by a greater margin had it not been for the visitors’ keeper. But Catton did make it 2-1 on 61 minutes after fine inter-play between Robinson, Hicks and Joseph and a third goal came on 89 minutes when Matthew Marsden charged down an attempted clearance by the keeper and won the race for the loose ball to score into an open net.
This Saturday Pontefract are away to Yorkshire Amateur and they are also in action next Wednesday (7.45pm) when they host Louth Town (3pm).
Colls have enjoyed more success having won the NCE Division One Fair Play award for August 2014.