Leyburn Town pulled off a memorable victory over Richmond Mavericks on Saturday, while Colburn overcame Unicorn to send both league title chasers out of the Medals Shield.
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On undoubtedly the biggest day in Leyburn’s brief history, the motivation of a cup final under the floodlights at Northallerton inspired the players to outplay the champions-elect.
Leyburn started brightly implementing a high press led superbly by George Shaw to put the Mavericks defence under pressure.
After five minutes a Leyburn corner was half cleared and fell to Kiefer Bottomley on the edge of the area who fired home courtesy of a slight deflection off a defender.
Leyburn continued to apply pressure and refused to allow Mavericks to get a foothold in the game.
The continued pressure told again after 20 minutes when Mavericks’ left back Owen Kelly sliced the ball high into the sky and towards his own goal, ex-Leyburn keeper Steven Reed could do nothing except parry the ball into the roof of the net.
Despite the net bulging Reed seemed to believe he’d kept the ball out and his extended protests led to a booking.
Leyburn continued to outwork Mavericks for the remainder of the first half and went into the break 2-0 to the good.
At half time Leyburn were aware that a team who have won every league game this season couldn’t be written off and the work rate and pressure of the first half would have to be maintained for the second 45 minutes.
Leyburn came out for the second half and managed to avoid their usual slow start, with Ryan Alderson using his boundless energy to break through the defensive line and lift the ball over the advancing Reed.
Keeper Reed summed up the Mavericks performance, nervy and seemingly over-awed by the occasion, after 55 minutes the ball was rolled back to Reed and he dawdled on the ball allowing George Shaw to pressurise him and deflect his attempted clearance into the goal to put Leyburn 4-0 up.
Despite extended pressure from Mavericks for the final 15 minutes, they failed to trouble Jack Hammond in the Leyburn goal.
He was even comfortable enough to start doing kick ups in his own area much to the disdain of the Mavericks players and spectators.
Even the late introduction of ex-Leyburn striker Kalem Stanger couldn’t spark the Mavericks attack into life and the game’s intensity slowly decreased as Leyburn managed the game and Mavericks appeared to accept their fate.
There was time in the last minute for the tireless George Shaw to be brought down in the area by a clumsy challenge from Dan Johnson.
After much deliberation, midfield workhorse Brandon Acton stepped up for the penalty and subsequently blasted it high, wide and not at all handsome.
There was a strong wind up on the Jaffa and Colburn won the toss, choosing to have the wind behind them first half.
The sun was low in the sky making life difficult for David Mutch in Unicorn’s goal.
Colburn’s main problem early on was judging the pace of balls forward – too often the passes were just too strong.
Nevertheless, Colburn piled on the pressure. Tom Sweeney shot just wide, Nige Cole’s far post header went over, then Rory Wallace struck a post after a fine through ball from Cole.
Ashley McInerney was beginning to cause chaos in the Unicorn back line from his corners.
Stuart Murray hit the post with a header from one such corner.
Then it was Shane Parkinson’s chance to run beyond the Unicorn defence but his shot was deflected for yet another corner.
The damn burst after 25 minutes – some superb interplay between McInerney and Wallace gave Murray a tap in to make it 1-0.
Next it was Cole heading narrowly wide from another McInerney corner, and it was another McInerney corner that brought Colburn’s second, when Luke Hamilton’s header was pushed out to a lurking Murray who nodded it home 2-0.
That was on 32 minutes, and the McInerney corner magic lead to the third, when another excellent ball in was headed in by Hamilton. Half Time 3-0 to Colburn who had dominated the first 45 minutes.
The second half gave Unicorn wind advantage, and almost immediately after the restart they got one back when Harry Jaques came of his line and was lobbed.
Colburn began to look jittery and on 56 minutes a ball was moved swiftly down Unicorn’s left flank, delivered into the box and smashed home to make it 3-2. Just on the hour, Hamilton was booked for a tackle outside the area, and the subsequent free kick found its way into the net to enable Unicorn to draw level.
Unicorn weren’t finished. Five minutes later a fierce shot from the left made it 4-3 to Unicorn.
Colburn came again and Unicorn were only ahead for two minutes.
Sweeney somehow conjured a cross from the left of the goal and a Murray header made it four apiece.
Back and forth it went for the next ten minutes, then Colburn were awarded a free kick to the right of the goal, about 20 yards out.
McInerney produced a peach of a free kick which Hamilton forced past the keeper to put Colburn ahead again 5-4.
Immediately after the restart, some dithering on the left of the goal by Hamilton, who should really have sent the ball into row Z, gave Unicorn the chance to snatch another equaliser.
Colburn, with extra time looming, made a couple of changes, one tactical, when Craig Teasdale replaced a disgruntled Parkinson to give a more direct threat down the right, and one enforced, when Murray, who’d been targeted by Unicorn all afternoon, had to come off.
Brandon Bishop came with instructions to win a few headers in Unicorn’s box.
Wind was in Colburn’s favour for the first 15 minutes of extra time. Bishop, following instructions to the letter for once, first headed onto the bar, then minutes later headed just wide.
Seven minutes in and Sweeney and Bishop created a position where the Unicorn defender, facing his own goal, could only knock the ball past a bemused Mutch.
Just before the interval, Joe Woodall was felled to give Colburn the chance to increase their lead.
Up stepped man of the moment, McInerney, who later revealed he was trying to fool Mutch in Unicorn’s goal. McInerney did as he’d planned but his effort was inches off target, rebounding off the upright.
Had Colburn missed the chance to finally put this game to bed? The interval came and the teams immediately resumed.
Unicorn seemed now to have lost heart, though they did make one or two ineffective forays towards the Colburn goal.
But it was Colburn who had the last word when Woodall was sent clear in added time. His shot was probably heading goalwards, but Teasdale made sure. 7-5 to Colburn after extra time.
The final will be played at Northallerton’s ground on March 21 at 7.30pm.
In the league, there was a rare win for Reeth over Spennithorne.
Lewis Burgess’s intelligent pass released Michael Ellis, who beat the defender to finish strongly for Reeth after 16 minutes.
Spennithorne scored on 27 minutes through James Smith when Reeth failed to clear their lines and the teams went in all square at half time.
Both sides hit the woodwork and the second half was a tale of missed chances until the closing stages.
Academy travelled up dale to face Carperby with swirling winds and a bobbly pitch making conditions difficult for both sides.
During the warm up it became apparent to the Academy management team that a few of the youngsters had enjoyed a number of beers the night before.
Things got worse a minute in when striker Ryan Hart started displaying the ingredients of the previous nights tea.
The first half was an even affair with the only chance of note when Simpson brought a good save from the Carperby keeper.
Gredziak was booked for a robust challenge and captain Stead followed him into the book for shirt pulling shortly after.
The home side took the lead early in the second half scoring from a corner with Academy once again not picking up set piece runners.
The goal dictated a double change with Forbes replacing Thompson and talisman striker Jonny Carr coming on for Gredziak, who looked destined to either get injured or sent off after upsetting a few of the opposition earlier in the game.
Academy were camped in the home sides half for the remainder of the game with Simpson and Lewington coming to life once restored to their regular positions on the wing.
Lewington created the equaliser as he ran through and slipped the ball past the keeper, Carr finishing from close range, although many said the defender actually slid it home.
Continued waves of pressure saw Carr hit the post from a yard out and Lewington strike the bar as fears were grew that the winner wouldn’t come.
However, In the 91st minute Lewington went on another fine run and slipped in Hart who finished smartly to set of joyous scenes from the solitary Academy fan on the touchline.
Carperby 1-2 Richmond Town
Reeth 2-1 Spennithorne
Colburn 7-5 Unicorn
Leyburn 4-0 Richmond Mavericks
Fixtures – 23.2.19
Colburn v Richmond Buck#
Leyburn v Hawes
Richmond Town Academy v Reeth
Spennithorne v Richmond Mavericks
Unicorn v Catterick Garrison