THERE’S no tougher start to a campaign than having to play last year’s one, two and three in the first three games, but that’s what faced newly promoted HAFC when the Under 13 fixtures were published.
A visit to Clifton Rangers on the opening day of the season resulted in a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the runners-up and next week HAFC travel to YMCA, who lifted the champions trophy last term.
In between, HAFC faced another stern test when Wyke Wanderers, who finished third, visited their Old Earth home at Elland.
For 20 minutes the home side seemed destined to suffer another defeat as Wyke piled on the pressure with some stylish football, and when James Habergham strolled through the middle of a static defence to score the opening goal, it was no more than Wyke deserved as they had already seen home keeper Adam Miller pull off a string of excellent saves.
Wyke continued to exploit space on both flanks and HAFC were lucky not to be three or four goals down as the visitors failed to capitalise on their dominance.
Wyke were given warning that their inability to improve their score might prove costly when a rare HAFC breakaway forced keeper Rowan Binns into a fine stop as the ball looked destined for the top corner.
The game changed when, yet again, Wyke failed to make the best of their chances as Kieron Brook’s shot flashed wide across the face of goal and, by the time Matthew Berry’s shot flew just over the Wyke crossbar, HAFC were beginning to give as much as they got.
The visitors were finally punished when Isaac Baldwin drilled an 18-yard shot into the top corner just before half-time.
The goal inspired HAFC, who took the lead just five minutes later, when Baldwin lashed in his second of the game with a superb angled shot from the right edge of the penalty area.
Callum O’Toole looked certain to add a third for the home side a few minutes later but his shot was smothered by the keeper.
George Payton, Luke Yates and keeper turned striker Rowan Binns continued to threaten as Wyke pressed for an equaliser but some fine defending from Matthew Davies, George Smith and Sam Sheard kept the HAFC goal intact.
Another counter by the home side produced a second chance for O’Toole and, this time, the HAFC striker made no mistake.
But HAFC’s two-goal cushion was short lived and they were caught napping when, from the re-start, Wyke powered through the middle and George Payton fired home to quell the home side’s celebrations.
With just minutes remaining, a Joe Kelly cross was met by Binns, whose fierce shot levelled the scores.
Both sides will probably feel they let two points slip away in this game but a draw was a fair result.