Garforth’s winless beginning to the season endured for five matches as they let slip a two-goal advantage against Knaresborough, who were leading the table.
A more recognisable lineup compared to the one seen against Handsworth the previous week saw Dexter Ball and Dan Coupland rejoin the starting eleven. Meanwhile, Kieran Clayton was given a start in place of Alex Zachariou.
Initially, the Miners held possession for a larger portion of the game’s opening stages, but they failed to craft any clear-cut opportunities. In their pursuit of a fifth consecutive league victory, Knaresborough gradually asserted themselves, proving threatening along the flanks. Dom Creamer’s attempt within the box was thwarted by the Town defence in the 18th minute. Shortly thereafter, Toby Wells saved Cameron Bedford’s low shot at the near post.
Determined defending managed to repel efforts from both Nathan Cartman and Sam Kilner. Following this, Garforth exerted pressure, with contributions from Sam Barker, Tabish Hussain, and Matt Antcliff. Antcliff’s low shot, set up by Barker, narrowly missed the target, and Dexter Ball was unlucky to hit the far post with a curling effort. In the 33rd minute, we secured our first lead of the season.
A well-executed play on the left side resulted in the ball reaching Antcliff just outside the box, who calmly found the net. Our lead was then doubled five minutes later. Captain Dan Coupland’s header from Hussain’s corner hit the ground and, amid a cluster of players, Harry Viggars managed to direct the ball into the goal.
Viggars nearly secured a third goal from another set-piece. After Barker’s attempt from a free-kick by Hussain was obstructed in the box, the centre-back struck the post with a powerful shot, as luck favoured the hosts once again.
Two minutes before halftime, Knaresborough pulled one back when Creamer converted Bedford’s cross from close range.
Although still holding a lead, the recurrent story of Garforth’s season unfolded – missed opportunities during crucial moments, defensive errors being exploited, and a vulnerability following a conceded goal, leading to another one. The hosts levelled the score just a minute into the second half. Town failed to clear their lines after a left-sided attack, allowing Danny Edwards to assist Bedford in slotting the ball into the bottom corner. Their comeback was finalised when substitute Ewan Gregson made an uncontested advance from the right and expertly placed the ball into the net’s lower corner. Wells made an impressive save to push Edwards’ header wide shortly after, ushering in another positive phase for The Miners, who now found themselves chasing the game. Rinor Ejupi’s 20-yard attempt went directly to Knaresborough keeper Tommy Brown, while Antcliff skillfully navigated through defenders when supplied by sub Lee Turner. However, his rising shot cleared the crossbar.
Play was halted due to an injury to referee Mark Findlay, who, despite attention from both physios, had to leave the field. A qualified referee was called upon to take over as an assistant, allowing play to resume after a thirteen-minute pause. Garforth’s opportunities continued, but an equaliser remained elusive. Barker’s long-range shot was right at Brown, and Coupland similarly couldn’t keep his attempt on target after an adventurous advance from sub Duke Witter. More commendable work by Witter culminated in a delivery to fellow sub Jason Davis at the far post, but his shot veered wide.
During an extended period of added time, Knaresborough sealed the game as Gregson netted his second goal, capitalising on sub Colin Heath’s header and finding the net via the far post. Town had a couple more chances with Davis and Barker coming close, while at the other end, Heath narrowly missed making it five when meeting a left-sided cross – his header went directly to Wells.
Town’s winless streak of five matches marked their poorest start to a season in fourteen years. Yet, this struggle isn’t due to a lack of effort, and it’s only occasional lapses in quality that hinder our prospects of improvement. After a run of four consecutive away games, we finally return to our home turf this Saturday when we welcome West Allotment Celtic in the FA Vase (kick-off at 3 pm).