Brighouse Town started life in the NCEL Premier Division with an excellent win against their North Yorkshire opponents. Pickering Manager Mark Wood spoke before the game to say they had "added three or four of their U19's plus four new recruits to the squad that finished 6th last season and he was generally pleased with how their pre-season had gone".
Pickering had some talented individuals, but Town never let them get into their stride and were in control for the majority of the match. Mark Brier's ulta-professional pre-season schedule looks to have got the players in excellent condition both physically and mentally, and the team spirit that got the team promoted last season was more than evident again, something they will certainly need in this very competative division for the rest of the season.
Town started brightly with Nicky Boshell shooting a yard wide within two mins, then the same players deep cross forced the visitors to concede a corner on 5 mins which was only cleared to the edge of the box where Town's Craig Smith unleashed a piledriver that crashed against the bar and over.
Smith's midfield partner Danny Hull, promoted from last years U19's, looked comfortable at this level with probing passing and a great work-ethic.Hard working Graham Marchant lead the line for Town,allowing Nathan Cartman a free role to cause the visitors defence problems and he forced the Pikes keeper to clear smartly after nearly getting on the end of a short back-pass.
On the quarter of an hour mark, Town had their first moment of anxiety when a deep cross from Dean Craig to the back post saw Chris Wdowczyk do well to block for a corner and a minute later Andy Woods made a routine low save from a shot by Tom Adams. Pikes No:7 Darren Clough received a booking for a late challenge on Darryl Leach that was to have repercussions for the winger later in the game.
Town reasserted themselves again and thought they had taken the lead on 22 mins. Smith won the ball and advanced to the edge of the box and struck a low shot that looked destined for the bottom left hand corner only for Pikes keeper, Kevin Martin who had a great game throughout, to dive low to his right to pull off a stunning save.
Marchant, Cartman,Hull and Smith all had attempts on goal but Town nearly fell for a sucker-punch when Pikes broke and Chaz Wrigley's shot was turned onto the post by Woods. This may have been the wake up call Town needed to turn their superiority into goals, because two minutes later on 36 mins, Town took the lead. Wdowczyk did well to win the ball in midfield to feed Smith who drew the defence before slipping the ball through to Cartman who confidently slotted the ball past the advancing keeper. Town then contolled the game up to the half time whistle without creating any real clear cut chances and the visitors received their 2nd yellow card when Danny Gray was booked for dissent.
Town started the second half with the same formation but were forced into making a change within a minute of the restart, Graham Marchant pulling a hamstring and being replaced by Andy Hawker but Town quickly got back into their stride with Cartman inches away from an early Boshell cross. On 50 mins Danny Gray did have the ball in the Town net but he had already been flagged for offside.
On 57 mins Hawker nearly got a debut goal when he smashed Boshell's lay-off against the bar. Cartman had earlier swivelled and volleyed wide, and then also broke clear but his tame left foot shot was saved. Alex Hallam also had a good attempt on goal saved after a 40 yd run from inside his own half.
On 66 mins Town made it 2 - 0 when Danny Hull broke into the box on the right hand side and then put over an inch perfect cross that Cartman despatched from 6 yds out. Pickering responded straight from the restart when Liam Salt's snapshot from 20yd flew a yard past the upright. That was probably the Pikes last serious attempt on goal whereas Town continued to play some good football, creating several chances.
Simon Wood showed great vision to pull the ball back to Boshell on 69 mins, his first time shot again bringing a save out of Martin. Boshell then gave way to sub Wayne Crossley who almost immediately increased Town's lead with a controlled side foot volley from Cartman's cross that again keeper Martin saved well.
With 10 mins left, Wdowczyk was replaced by Lee Burgess and Pickering were reduced to 10 men when Darren Clough received a second yellow card for dissent and this probably ended any hope of the Pikes staging a late comeback.
Town skipper Darryl Leach, who along with Matt Sparkes had commanding games, then went into the Refs book for a high tackle but Town wrapped the game up on 87 mins when Andy Hawker's long pass released Crossley who scored with a low shot that took a slight deflection on the way in.
In injury time Lee Burgess was thwarted by Pikes man of the match keeper Kevin Martin who brilliantly tipped away his header after Cartman had crossed.
After the game Town Boss Mark Brier was rightly pleased with his teams performance " Our attitude,committment and discipline were all excellent today, we started well and managed to keep it going for most of the match.The whole squad contributed, including those who came off the bench and I'm also pleased with the clean sheet. However, no one's getting carried away, people always read too much into the first result of the season,but it's still nice to get off to a winning start"