Garforth Town 2-4 Knaresborough Town
Despite their best efforts, Garforth were beaten 4-2 by Knaresborough on their return to league action (report by Samuel Bannister)
Three second half goals from the visitors saw them come from behind to claim all three points in an intense physical battle.
It was a competitive game, the first half-chance coming in the fourth minute, when Devonte Morton played the ball across the box from the left-hand side, but no-one was there to connect. Shortly after, his strike partner Mark Ferguson headed on a clearance from Chris Howard, with the ball falling to Morton. The number 9 twisted and turned with the ball before it fell back to Ferguson, but the goalkeeper stopped him.
Knaresborough then began to grow into the game, with Ben Parkes having a shot on goal from outside the box.
At the other end, visiting goalkeeper Jack Rushworth spilled the ball to Morton, but the attacker could only hit it straight back at him. The ball rebounded out, but Morton’s half-volley was deflected away from danger.
Around the 20 minute mark, Garforth debutant Michael Thompson had to make a crucial block on the line after a Knaresborough player had shot from the edge of the box.
The game was becoming physical and a bit scrappy, with chances few and far between. Some good work from a Garforth throw in saw Niah Payne link up with Ferguson, but the ball was travelling too fast for the attacker to stop it from running out of play. Next, Billy Lumsden spotted Shaquille Clarke-Adams to his left, and played the ball to him. Clarke-Adams’ left-footed shot went wide of the nearpost.
With just four minutes to go until the break, Knaresborough won a penalty. Howard had tried to shield the ball out of play, but an attacker nicked in and was then brought down by Howard. Dan Thirkell stepped up to take for the visitors, and he smashed it down the middle to give them the lead.
Garforth will have felt disappointed, as they had put in a good shift in the first half and will have felt like they deserved to go in at the break on level terms. Fortunately, thanks to a moment of magic from Payne, they did.
In stoppage time, the former Bradford City Academy player cut inside from the right wing and unleashed an ambitious left-footed effort. The ball sailed over the keeper’s head and into the top corner to pull the score back to 1-1.
However, Garforth had to work had to stay on level terms before the break, with keeper Toby Wells and Lumsden both making important blocks before the half-time whistle blew.
Town started the second half on top, with Aodhan Brownlee picking out Ferguson with an inviting cross. Ferguson tried to glance his header into the far corner, but his effort went narrowly wide.
A couple of minutes later, Garforth were in front. Ferguson held the ball up after running down the left flank, cutting it back for Clarke-Adams. The number 11 drove into the box and shot across goal. The ball hit the inside of the post and bounced in to give Town a 2-1 lead.
However, just three minutes after, the scores were level again. After Garforth had conceded a corner, Gregg Anderson moved to the nearpost, heading the ball past Wells to make it 2-2.
Ex-Garforth player Nick Black then continued the Knaresborough pressure, as he beat the offside trap to find himself one-on-one with Wells. Black managed to get past the keeper, but Howard was there to block on the line.
Another chance for the away side came when Rob Youhill saw a looping effort from distance tipped over by Wells. From the resulting corner, Knaresborough regained the advantage. The ball was played deep to the backpost, and after a few deflections, Brad Walker buried it in the back of the net for 3-2.
Knaresborough continued their momentum, with Howard having to clear the danger again. However, the pressure wasn’t over, with the ball falling to Thirkell. The defender’s shot from a difficult angle missed.
Seeking a way back into the game, Garforth won a corner. Clarke-Adams had played a good one-two with Payne, before his ball forward was diverted behind. However, while the visitors were so effective from set pieces, Garforth couldn’t work a chance from one of their own corners.
With the clock ticking down, Rob Hunter made a couple of attacking substitutions. First, attacking midfielder Albert Ibrahimi came on for central midfielder Lumsden, and a few minutes later, defender Kieran Holmes was replaced by striker Curtly Martin-Wyatt.
Ibrahimi was involved shortly after coming on, linking up with Clarke-Adams on the left wing. Ibrahimi cut inside and found Thompson in an advanced midfield position. Thompson unleashed a great right-footed effort, which just rose over the bar.
Garforth had their backs to the wall again in the closing minutes though, and despite a couple of blocks on the line, the ball eventually fell to Rob Worrall, who struck the ball powerfully from the edge of the box. It nestled in the bottom of Wells’ net, making it 4-2 to the visitors.
In the end, there was to be no way back into the game for Garforth. It was by no means a bad performance, but the opposition were more clinical with their chances. Attentions return to cup competitions now, with Town making the journey north to Ryton & Crawcrook Albion on Saturday in the FA Vase Second Round Qualifying.