Lower Hopton 1
In a thoroughly entertaining West Riding County Amateur League game Steeton gained a point against a slick Lower Hopton side who moved the ball around in an eye-catching manner and seemed confident in all areas of the field.
This seemed to bring out the best in the hosts too as some of the passing and movement was a pleasure to watch.
Stuart Devlin made his home debut in the Steeton goal and Jack Richards moved to right back, replacing Michael Rhodes, who joined Josh Huntley on the bench.
Steeton almost took the lead in the third minute when Lee Reilly fired a shot, which was dealt with smartly by the Hopton keeper.
Both teams were playing fast, open, attacking football and seemed keen to attack down their respective left wings with Joe Park twice moving forward to help out with the attack.
However, it was his opposite number who almost opened the scoring when a cross-cum-shot deceived team mates and opponents alike and missed the target by inches.
The resulting goal kick fell to the feet of Mark McGee who tried a snap shot from distance, which beat the keeper but went a whisker over the crossbar.
On the 15-minute mark a free-kick on the left by Andy Holden was met by Sam Rooke whose firm header just cleared the bar.
A defensive mix-up, which saw Devlin leaving the ball to cross the dead ball line almost led to the visitors scoring the first goal when their right winger hooked the ball over a split second before it went out.
With the goal unguarded and the ball at the feet of a striker only sterling work by Park and Arley Barnes prevented a goal.
Both sides were pressing high up the pitch and this caused both defences into hurried play.
A close range back pass to Devlin, which he probably was not expecting, forced him into one such hurried clearance, which went directly to a Hopton forward who blazed what was probably the best chance of the half over the bar.
Chances aplenty were still coming for both sides and Steeton escaped one of those “I’ve seen them given, Gary” moments when a shot hit Tim Hird on the forearm but referee Mr Clough turned away the penalty appeals of the visiting players and staff.
Before the break Steeton had two further chances when a shot by Reilly, which seemed to be going in, dipped at the last moment and somehow went over the bar.
In the last minute Park won the ball superbly in midfield and strode forward unchallenged, seized a chance to shoot and was unlucky to see the goalkeeper position himself smartly to stop what was a goal-bound effort.
The second half started much as the first had ended and Steeton were grateful to Devlin who got down smartly to block a snapshot from the James Alexander, which deflected off Park.
It was No.3 Alexander, who had an outstanding match, who broke the deadlock after about an hour when he burst through and bore down on goal and kept running and slotted the ball past Devlin as Steeton players stopped expecting Mr Clough to halt play for what some thought was a foul and others a case of handball.
Before the game restarted, substitute Huntley replaced Reilly.
Steeton went straight out for an equaliser and Huntley combined well with Graham Holmes, who worked tirelessly throughout the match to provide opportunities for team mates, only to be thwarted by a piece of brave goalkeeping.
Toby Rawcliffe pushed forward from his midfield slot where he had linked so well with Hird and when the ball fell to him on the edge of the box he hit a superb shot, which brought the best save of the game from the visiting keeper, who threw himself to his right to push away the ball.
After 70 minutes Hopton almost doubled their lead when a break down the left saw a cross elude Devlin and leave a striker with the goal at his mercy but he skewed his effort well wide.
This seemed to spur on the hosts and the pressure paid off when some fine interplay between Holden and Holmes on the right saw the ball pushed in front of Huntley who took the ball in his stride and rammed it into the roof of the net to secure parity.
Every player on the field played a part in a very good game.
Steeeton’s assistant manager Rob Horton was pleased with the performance but felt that the game had a bit of an end of season feel to it.
He said: “With neither side having anything to play for, it was always going to be a case of getting the fixture over with and it was important we kept up our performances of late and didn’t pick up any injuries before Friday’s Keighley Cup final.”
Steeton: Devlin, Richmond, Park, Barnes, Rooke, Rawcliffe, Holden, Hird, Reilly (Huntley), Holmes, McGee. Sub (not ued): Rhodes.