Pontefract Collieries came out on top in their first game of 2014 and strengthened their fourth place in the Division One table with a hard fought 3-0 win over a strong Hall Road Rangers side.
Following an extended Christmas break due to two match postponements Colls were delighted to be back on the pitch against their East Yorkshire visitors and equally pleased to stretch their unbeaten run to 15 matches.
Managers Duncan Bray and Nick Handley had to reshuffle their side once again with Nigel Danby and Craig Robinson missing through suspension and Adam Robinson laid low with a stomach bug.
Handley came in at centre-half to partner Michael Staley with Josh Corbett filling the left-back position and captain Dean Twibey in his usual right-back berth. Brenton Leister and Chris Kamara were paired in midfield with Kyle Hawthorne, Gareth Grant, Liam Radford and Andy Catton up front. Craig Parry was in goal.
Any concerns the Ponte faithful had that the unplanned break might have had an adverse effect on the side were soon put to bed as the game was taken to Rangers from the start. Hawthorne had two good runs and clear shooting chances in the first 10 minutes and although he failed to convert it set the scene for him to become the visitors’ tormentor in chief throughout.
It was not until gone 15 minutes that Rangers managed to mount an attack of menace, but they had a massive claim for a penalty waved away by the officials. As their big number nine twisted to shoot in the box Corbett curled his leg round the attacker and upended him for what seemed a stonewall penalty, but the referee gave nothing despite the Hall Road players protests.
The remainder of the first half settled into a pattern of attack and counter attack by the home and away sides and any number of chances went begging for both sides.
The Rangers number 10 had several chances when clean through on goal, but the ever dependable Parry stood firm. At the other end Hawthorne, Grant and Radford all had similar good chances which they failed convert and the half somehow ended goalless.
The second half saw the Colls close the door on the midfield space with Kamara sitting back and playing a holding role in front on the back four. That cut out Rangers’ main route to goal and Ponte got on top.
On 52 minutes Hawthorne went on another strong run, cutting across the face of the goal and driving a shot into the far corner to open the scoring. It was no more than he deserved for a strong display all game.
The goal unsettled the Rangers defence and five minutes later the ball cannoned around in the away team’s area without any of the Colls players being able to put it in the net.
But on 66 minutes some strong approach play from the hard working Radford fed the ball through to Grant and although he missed with his first attempt he then volleyed into the net to make it 2-0.
Rangers hit back and for the next 10 minutes put Colls under the cosh. Three clear attempts on goal came to nothing, however, one wide, one fired over and the third tipped over by Parry.
Ponte made changes to settle the game with Kingsley Wetherald coming on for Radford, Nathan Perks on for Grant and Mark Simpson on for Catton.
As the game moved into added time Colls worked what was probably their best move of the game. Simpson intercepted in his own half, drove forward and slid the ball to Perks, who deftly flicked on to Wetherald who unselfishly played the charging Kamara in on goal to make it 3-0 with an exquisite lob over the advancing keeper.
The win moved Colls back into fourth position as sides above had games postponed or could only manage a draw. This Saturday sees Shirebrook Town visit Pontefract for a fourth versus fifth match in a classic six-pointer. Kick-off is 3pm.
Glasshoughton Welfare’s scheduled Premier Division match at Retford United last Saturday was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
The game has now been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 18 with a 7.45pm kick-off.
This Saturday, weather permitting, Welfare are at home to high-flying Bridlington Town (3pm) and can expect a tough test against the title challengers before they play a quick return fixture at Bridlington the following Saturday.