TWO sides hoping to improve on a fairly indifferent start to the season met when Hartshead arrived at Kirkburton Middle School for their Division II clash with Kirkburton.
The prize for the winners would be a place in the top half of the division and Hartshead probably felt they had a good chance of picking up all three points as Kirkburton had already suffered three heavy defeats from their opening six games.
And by half time and on the balance of play, they could be forgiven for still thinking they would be the winning side.
Hartshead’s speed and accuracy of passing kept the home side pinned in their own half of the field for long periods yet, despite their dominance, the game was 35 minutes old before they were able to fashion a shot on target as Connor Garg, Tom Smith, Josh Booth and Jack Brough proved equal to anything Hartshead could throw at them.
Meanwhile Kirkburton, who were forced to rely on breakaways and managed only a handful of attacking moves throughout the first half, were four goals to the good by the time the referee blew his whistle for the end of the first 45 minutes.
Owen Gibson gave warning of things to come when a long ball over the top left the striker with just Jamie Howarth to beat, but the keeper did enough to force Gibson’s shot wide.
Sean Raven and Nicholas Lambert continued to pile on the pressure for Hartshead with some useful breaks down both flanks, but a failure to produce a telling cross left the visitors frustrated.
Kirkburton’s first real attack of the game came on the quarter hour mark when a long throw from the right paid dividends as Owen Gibson found the back of the net to give his side a shock lead.
Hartshead couldn’t believe their luck and went on as if nothing had changed, but the goal made a difference to Kirkburton who were now beginning to believe in themselves. And when Hartshead failed to deal with a corner, Tom Smith floated a superb left foot chip over the keeper into the top corner to double the home side’s advantage.
Once again the goal was against the run of play and Hartshead continued to pile on the pressure, but when Sean Raven finally crafted a goalbound shot, keeper Matthew Clarke saved well and from his clearance, Gibson escaped his marker to fire home a third for Kirkburton.
With the visitors still in charge of the game their belief that they could still win probably proved their downfall as the harder they tried the more space they left at the back and by half time they were staring at a four-goal deficit as Smith ran from the halfway line to slide home another for Kirkburton.
Throughout the first half and even at the opening of the second period there was always a danger that if Hartshead scored then Kirkburton might crumble, but when Raven scuffed a good chance wide five minutes after the re-start, Hartshead hopes faded.
Gibson completed his hat trick as Hartshead were again caught defending too high up the pitch and although Raven scrambled home a goal for the Spen Valley side from a near-post corner, Kirkburton soon restored their five-goal lead when Gibson took his personal tally to four.
With just five minutes remaining and the game effectively over, Raven grabbed another for Hartshead thanks to a terrific pass from Stephen Smith, but Kirkburton were determined to make the best of their day and Joe Crowther rounded the keeper in the last minute to score and finish off a great victory for Kirkburton.