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Westmorland football survives the big freeze

[I]f anything can be learnt from this weekend, it’s that after an overnight frost and then a sunny morning, it’s worth waiting before games are called off on the grounds a pitch is ‘frozen’.

Early cancellations mean a postponement – but those that did wait this weekend mostly went ahead: the early pitch inspections at Frenchfield and Gilwilly Recreation Ground left matches for Penrith Academy (against Langwathby), Penrith Royal (against Endmoor KGR Reserves) and Wetheriggs United (versus Kendal County) frustratingly cancelled, whereas Sedbergh Wanderers, Shap, Keswick, Lunesdale and Endmoor were amongst the teams who waited for the sun to do its work before calling their games on.

A late cancellation can be equally frustrating, especially where travel its involved (and we are a big county!) but where teams keep in touch with each other,  it’s surely better to wait and see in the hope of getting a match played.

Windermere ‘keeper Dan Sykes clears a Sedbergh attack (Ben Challis)

Top of the menu in Westmorland Football were the two Westmorland FA Benevolent Trophy ties, the Quarter Final between Sedbergh Wanderers and Windermere SC, and the Semi Final between Appleby and Kirkby Stephen: both were great games, and both went to extra time.

The Sedbergh match was confirmed (at the fourth time of asking!) after a late inspection and the pitch was more than playable, but then the start was frustratingly delayed after the Westmorland FA referee David Stones was sent to the Windermere ground, more confusion over the FA’s own rules which mean a match venue swaps after two cancellations.

It’s not the first time this has happened this season and it needs to be sorted out. But after a forty five minute delay, the match was worth the wait and was a pulsating end to end battle between two well matched teams and decided by just the one goal in extra time from Matt Parkinson, with Windermere walking away with a 0-1 win. Windermere now meet Division Two leaders Carleton Banks in the second Semi Final.

The second tie, the Semi Final between First Division Appleby and Third Division title contenders Kirkby Stephen was a real local derby and had been dubbed the ‘Fells Clasico’ in advance of the match (with a natty poster to boot!). And what a battle it was, and so nearly an upset as Kirkby Stephen dominated the play for seventy minutes: Dan Hallam scored the first goal for the visitors with a 25 yard screamer and then Andy Lockhart put in a second, only for Appleby’s James Addison to pull two goals back to force the match into extra time.

Now fitness told, and the home side walked away with a narrow 3-2 victory, with the winning goal from Jack Overs, despite Kirkby Stephen almost equalising for penalties when they hit the post in the dying minutes. But it’s Appleby who move on to the final, but oh my it was close, and the home side tweeted “Great credit has to go to the visitors who for long periods were the better side, we’ll be playing them regularly in the 1st div in 2 years!”. Decent that.

In The James Cropper Westmorland League Keswick waited until noon to ensure a final pitch inspection was passed meaning their High Sheriff’s Cup Quarter Final tie with Penrith Reserves could go ahead, and Keswick won this 2-1 against a very good Penrith side, with goals from Richard Bannister and Stevie Hindmarch for Keswick and Rhys Graham for the visitors. Keswick will meet Sedburgh or Ambleside in the Semi Final, the other Semi Final is between Appleby and Kirkowald.

Shap crowd the Kirkoswald goal looking to equalise (Ben Challis)

There were two Division One league games on offer, and the pick of the pair was Shap against Kirkoswald. If recent results were anything to go by, this was always going to be a high scoring game: Shap won 4-3 against Wetheriggs United last weekend and the last time these two met two weeks ago it was a 4-4 draw at the Old Showfield in Kirkoswald.

Shap have a potent stroke force in Jordan Palmer and Luke Fraser, and Kirkoswald have Niall Renwick, the Division’s top scorer, and Nicholas Jake Holden, who is grabbing goal after goal. In fact four of the Division;s top six strikers were on show on this one match.

And sure enough, it was another feast of goals. After an engaging contest, the score was 2-3 at half time, with the Shap goals coming from Jordan Palmer and Sam Wood and Kirkoswald’s from Holden, Jimmy Stobart and Tommy Smith.

The second half was end to end, with both team teams looking for the win: With 15 minutes to go, KO substitute Reece Simpson made it 2-4 to Kirkoswald with a neat shot from the right of Shap’s goal, calmly slotting the ball past an advancing Neil Graham, but the game was far from over, and Shap’s substitute Jordan Turner pulled a goal back for 3-4 from a quick counter attack which left KO ‘keeper Tom Banks stranded as Turner fired into the undefended left hand corner of the net.

With all to play for, both teams battled until referee David O’Callaghan’s final whistle, but there were no more goals and all three points go to Kirkoswald.

A cracker of a game. In the only other Division One match, Endmoor KGR lost out 0-3 to Ibis who stay fourth, and increase their lead over fifth placed KGR with the goals from Cory Robinson, Darren Braithwaite and Dan Jones.

Division Two had the most matches postponed with no games for Castletown Utd (at Greystoke), Keswick Reserves (at Kendal Utd Reserves)  and Eden Thistle (at Ullswater Utd). But one Mason & Freeman Cup tie went ahead, where Winderemere SC Reserves were demolished 1-7 by Staveley United, with Hal Van Geesbergen netting an impressive five for Staveley.

AFC Carlisle were hosts to Division two leaders Carleton Banks and despite putting on their best performance this season, went down 0-2 at Sheepmount, with a goal in each half for the Soccermoos’ Ryan Smith.

Twelve wins in a row for the boys in pink! In the only other League match, Braithwaite’s winning run came to en end with a 0-1 home defeat to second placed Dent.

In Division Three of the James Cropper Westmorland League, Kirkoswald Reserves made it a double win for KO (despite the teams conceding a combined eight goals!) with a 6-5 win over Burneside with four goals for Ryan Bell and a brace for Rob Anderson. Lunesdale were another side to get a game on and hosted an entertaining match against the much improved Penrith Saints which ended with a narrow 2-1 win for Lunesdale at a bitterly cold but sunny Maurice Park.

Lunesdale started well and had a penalty awarded by referee Charlie Mulhall on three minutes when Brandon Brett was up ended in the box, but Saint’s ‘keeper Stephen Kerr made a superb save turning the ball round the post. Five minutes later Lunesdale were 1-0 up when Dillan Potts sneaked in at the back post and had a simple tap in from a Simon Charlton cross.

This spurred on the Saints, and only some excellent goal keeping by LUFC’s Adam Ingledew kept Penrith at bay, and the half time score was 1-0 to the home team.

On 70 minutes Saints were on terms when Lee Jones out-jumped the Lunesdale defence to score from a corner, but man of the match Duncan Mackenzie responded just four minutes later with a well taken curling shot that went inside the far post. Saints pushed for an equaliser but there no more goals as both defence held firm, and the win was Lunesdale’s, 2-1.

In the Smurfit Kappa Cumberland County League, the headline match was in the Cumberland Cup Quarter Final between the much fancied Aspatria and basement side Netherhall.

But Netherhall rolled back the years to their glory days and had this, winning 1-3 at St Mungos Park with goals from from Jamie Weir and an Ethan Weir brace. Aspatria’s consolation goal was from Sean Law. A great result for Netherhall, who will meet one of Cleator Moor Celtic, Workington Reds or Penrith AFC in the semi-finals.

In the Premier Division there was just one match after the cancellation of the Cockermouth v Carlisle City Reserves match, and Wigton Harriers had a 2-1 win over Silloth with the Harriers’ goals from Jonny Studholme and Stu Carruthers, and Kieran Little replying for the Seagulls. Wigton stay top of the table.

In Division One, it was Divisional Cup day, and  Bransty Rangers hammered local rivals Whitehaven AFC Reserves 7-1 with goals from Jamie Thursby (2), Liam O’Pray (2), Scott Davidson, Stewart O’Pray and Dan Fowler.

Unisun Athletic had a very useful 3 – 0 home win over Borough with two goals from Ashley Tyson and one from Jack Barwick. And goals from a Jordan Lee brace and Ben Graham gave Windscale Reserves a close 3-2 win over Whitehaven Miners.

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