Keepers star as Oxenhope fall narrowly to champions

Bardsey 1 Oxenhope Rec 0
Despite missing four key players, Oxenhope put a spirited performance against Bardsey, last season’s West Yorkshire League champions, who are again top of the table and favourites to lift the title.
In the first half, it was the league leaders who had the majority of the play but Oxenhope had the better scoring opportunities.
The Worth Valley side unfortunately found the Bardsey keeper Jonathan Smith in fine form, pulling off a string of top-drawer saves.
Luke Scott, playing in a more advanced role in midfield, was the first to test the custodian, chesting the ball down outside the area before letting fly with a volley that had Smith at full length to tip the ball round a post for a corner.
Ben White then won the ball in midfield and fed Nivard Trowers whose left foot strike was saved at the foot of a post.
Bardsey always looked dangerous going forward with flowing, neat passing football but Oxenhope’s back line, led by player/manager Mark Bentham, held firm and when they did get sight of goal stand-in keeper Grahame Ellis was equal to all they could muster.
Oxenhope’s best chance of the half came on the half hour when Bentham strode out of defence with the ball and hit a screamer from distance that looked destined for the top corner but the keeper flung himself acrobatically across goal to touch the ball over the bar.
The keeper then made another fine save from Michael Garnett, after Bentham had played in Dan Moriarty, who slid the ball in to the big striker.
Goal-less at half-time, Bardsey again applied the pressure after the break and this time it was the turn of keeper Ellis to show his credentials when a free-kick found the Bardsey striker in the box and Ellis got down smartly to bravely save at point-blank range.
A corner from Moriarty was cleared to Scott Nelson and his powerfully-hit strike was smothered by Smith at the foot of a post.
Garnett’s shot then ricocheted on to Chris Newman’s knee and bounced to safety.
The breakthrough came after 75 minutes when a free-kick from outside the area was parried by Ellis across the goal but Bardsey’s striker was the first to react and blasted his follow-up into the empty net.
Oxenhope strived for the equaliser but Bardsey’s defence could not be breached as they played out time.
Oxenhope: Ellis, Pullan, S Nelson, Bentham, Walton, White, Scott, Moriarty, Garnett, Newman (Thompson), Trowers.

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