Saturday 24th April 2010

Silsden 2 Winsford United 1
Vodkat League Premier Division
At: Cougar Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (44 pages)
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 120
Weather: sunny
Duration: first-half: 47:14; second-half: 48:10

Silsden AFC brought the curtain down on their 6½ spell at Cougar Park with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Winsford United in the Vodkat League Premier Division. After a goalless first half, Andy Kinsey put the visitors ahead within two minutes of the restart and they held the lead until Scott Henson headed in a 78th minute equaliser. In a fitting end to their 170th and final competitive game at the home of Keighley RLFC, Silsden grabbed an 86th-minute winner though it did come courtesy of an own goal from the unfortunate Steve Capper.

Because I didn’t trust the M6 – 10 minute delay indicated between junctions 15 and 16 – I left the motorway at the earliest opportunity and took an interesting route via Congleton, Alderley Edge, around the M60 through Stockport, past Chadderton’s ground before travelling through Rochdale, Littleborough, Hebden Bridge and Oxenhope.

Finally arriving in Keighley around 2-15 pm, I found the ground entrance on Royd Ings Road after a bit on panic over not finding it on the main A650.

The ground was an impressive Rugby League venue with large stand, containing bench seating down the right-hand touchline with a covered terrace, named the North Stand, behind the near goal. Down the left-hand touchline and behind the far goal were substantial uncovered terraces named the East Terrace and South Terrace.

Though the first-ever Silsden AFC was founded in 1904, the present-day side results from the reforming of a Saturday side in 1996. Progressing through the Craven and District League and West Ridling County Amateur League, the club joined the North-West Counties League in 2004. They gained promotion to Division 1, now titled Premier Division, at the first attempt and the current 2009/10 season is their fifth consecutive in the top division.

Teams were announced over the tannoy and the announcer pointed out that two Silsden players – Martin Foulger and Michael Rosser – had indeed started the first game at Cougar Park back in March 2003, a 2-2 against Bay Athletic in the West Riding County Amateur League.

Both sides went into the game in the lower half of the table with Silsden (40 points from 38 games) in 16th position. However, Winsford (19th position with 33 points from 36 games) still had relegation troubles though with games in hand to pick a few more points to secure their Premier Division status for next season.

Winsford got the game underway attacking the South Terrace end in the first half. Chances were scare during the opening 20 minutes. Then Jordan Barker turned on the edge of the Winsford area and hit a fierce left-foot shot which Jason Astbury tipped over.

Just after the half-hour mark. Lewis Barker hit a rising 25-yard shot which didn’t miss the target by much. One supporter shouted “yes” as the ball headed towards goal, expecting the back of the net to bulge.

Silsden skipper Chris Simpson went even closer to breaking the deadlock in the 44th minute when he thumped a volley against the bar.

After one supporter sang ‘Happy Birthday’ for someone in the crowd called ‘Matthew’, Winsford took the lead just 65 seconds after the resumption. Andy Kinsey, who I remember playing for Newcastle Town last season, fired an angled shot across goal into the far top-right corner of the net. I revealed the time on my Golden Goal ticket. Alas I had ‘34’ and not the required ‘46’.

Raffle tickets were sold during the first half with two prizes on offer. The winning numbers were 700 and 707 – agonisingly close to my 713 ticket.

Back to the action and Silsden’s quest for an equaliser. Astbury produced a couple of decent saves, first to parry a well-struck 25-yard shot from Simpson and then to keep out another shot from Daniel Riley.

Micahel Rosser, who had played in Silsden’s first game at Cougar Park, had the honour of being the last substitute to come on.

Eventually Silsden levelled things up in the 78th minute. Barker delivered a right-wing corner and Scott Hanson rose to head home from 6 yards out.

I felt a fitting finalé would be a Silsden winner and that was the way things turned out in the 86th minute. Makeshift Winsford defender Steven Capper deflected Rosser’s left-wing cross into his own net under pressure from Riley. “Second goal for Silsden scored by OG,” came the announcement on the tannoy.

The victory turned out to be Silsden 100th in the North-West Counties League.

With the Cougar Park era over, Silsden can now look forward to playing home first-team games back in their own village at an upgraded Keighley Road ground.