After watching three friendlies this pre-season, it was at last time for some competitive league action and so a trip to Garforth Town for their fixture against Parkgate. I didn’t realise until I checked my records, that this is the third season running that I have attended The Miners opening league fixture.
Back in 2012/13 Garforth lost 2-0 to Clitheroe in the Evo-Stik League First Division North in what was to prove a disastrous season for the team, as turmoil on and off the field threatened the very existence of the club. Last season, with a new management structure in place, Garforth hosted Thackley, but went down 2-1 in a game that had a dramatic finish.
So to today and this season, which this will mark the 50th Anniversary of the clubs history; an achievement given the chaos at Garforth just two years ago. Great credit must go to Chairman Brian Close, Manager Graham Nicholas, the committee and the army of volunteers that have worked hard to stabilise and start to take the club forward.
At the beginning of the season there is always that air of optimism for players and fans alike and at Garforth it is no different as they look to secure the title and promotion back to the Evo-Stik League. That task began today with a visit from South Yorkshire team Parkgate, who last season struggled finishing in 19th position.
Despite the heavy rain and flooding that occurred in the area on Friday night, the playing surface looked immaculate and at kick-off there were blue skies overhead Wheatley Park. However, even though it was a warm day, there were significant winds throughout the game which meant that in the opening quarter of an hour both sides struggled to judge the strength of their passing. Indeed the conditions had a part to play in the opening goal on twenty three minutes. An over hit ball out of defence by Garforth looked to be easily gathered by Parkgate keeper Daniel Morton, but he somehow managed to spill the ball giving Dominic Hackney the simple task of walking the ball into the net. However, Morton made up for his error later in the half when he superbly tipped over a deflected shot from Sam Akeroyd. 1-0 to The Miners at the break a lead they deserved.
The Steelmen though started the second-half the better of the two teams, and got their reward on forty nine minutes. Poor defensive play by Garforth enabled Scott Whittington to work his way into the box where he was crudely brought down by Andy Hawksworth. The Miners skipper was thankfully only shown a yellow card, when on another day a less lenient referee might have sent him off. Scott Lowe confidently scored in the top left hand corner from the spot and it was all square at 1-1. Both sides then had periods of possession although without creating a clear cut chance and as the game entered the last ten minutes it looked as though it was going to be a point apiece for both sides.
However, it all changed on eighty three minutes. Substitute Simni Oyebanji despite being marked by two Parkgate players managed to get the by-line and provide a cut-back pass which was superbly finished left-footed into the far corner by Luke Managham. It was 3-1 just three minutes later, when a well worked free-kick was brilliantly flicked in by Managham for his second of the afternoon.
Perhaps 3-1 was a bit harsh on Parkgate, but Garforth deserved the win and had got the season off to the best possible start. The remainder of August will see The Miners travel to Retford United, and home games against Heanor Town and Bridlington Town in the League and an FA Cup tie at Newton Aycliffe. Fingers crossed that today is the start of something special as they celebrate 50 years of existence.