THE RCD League is trying a new cup format this season which they hope will make the competitions more interesting.
With five and six divisions at the Under 11 to Under 16 age groups, the skills gap between teams in the top and bottom divisions grows wider.
The new system allows the lower division teams to be drawn against each other, likewise teams in the top divisions are drawn against each other – with teams from all divisions being drawn against each other in the later rounds.
The hope is that this system will reduce the number mis-matches.
On that basis, Howden Clough Under 15s arrived at a sun-bathed Salendine Nook for their first round cup meeting with Westend Lions.
Having been relegated from the First Division last season, Westend’s encouraging start to the season has helped them regain some of the confidence they lost during that period, but despite getting back to winning ways, they knew First Division Howden Clough, who have lost only once this season, would be tough.
So it proved, as Howden Clough went into the second round with a 4-2 victory.
After a well-observed minute’s silence on remembrance Sunday, the game kicked off with both sides trying to play the ball on the ground.
After an early Westend cross was well claimed by keeper Jordan Bloom, Howden Clough took control and when Joe Woodhouse picked out Charlie Toulson after five minutes, Lions keeper James Sowerby could only parry the ball into the path of Declan Blakeley, who guided it home.
The Westend rearguard of Rowan Ford, Jacob Giwisser, Reece Forde and Kieran Glanney worked hard to hold off the relentless Clough attack and keeper Sowerby did well to save shots from Alex Hasioszyn and Dale Brooks.
Clough came to regret the squandered chances when, against the run of play, a Dale Agostini right-wing run ended in a corner which the Clough defence failed to clear and Glanney pounced to drive the ball into the roof of the net for 1-1.
Clough didn’t allow the setback to upset them and their first-half dominance was finally rewarded when Hasioszyn forced a corner. Woodhouse played the ball to the far post where Naylor met it with a thumping header to restore the lead.
The half ended shortly afterwards with the score at 2-1 but, as the second half unfolded, Clough’s excellent passing game gradually disintegrated and Westend’s Bradley West was quick to exploit the extra time and space with a dipping 25-yard shot which left keeper Bloom stranded off his line, making it 2-2.
After struggling to find their form, Clough regained the lead when Dale Brooks was brought down just outside the penalty area and Joe Woodhouse fired the resulting free-kick into the far corner.
Another Clough free-kick resulted when Killey was brought down in similar circumstances and Woodhouse repeated his free-kick trick with a fine shot.
Howden Clough deserved their win purely on their first-half performance but, they were in serious danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.