Masham gallop past United

The Ackrill Newspapers' match of the week

NO Harrogate Railway or trophies this week, but nevertheless an impressive performance from visiting Masham who recorded a league double over hosts Hampsthwaite United.

'Low key' appeared the best way to sum up the pre-match build up but there were other issues.

After all, Hampsthwaite were not yet mathematically safe from relegation, and although Masham were, they had a cup final around the corner and you expected a decent performance from them with final places up for grabs.

Masham had also won the 'first leg' of this fixture 6-2 and given these ingredients the visitors would have been pre-match favourites, though with all the focus surrounded around events at Aintree, this was the last day you would get odds on a Harrogate League fixture.

Seven spectators eventually took their place on the sidelines, and in picturesque scenery the game kicked-off on Hollins Close's rock-hard pitch.

And from the outset it seemed apparent that Masham were going all out for the classic away performance.

Hampsthwaite began the brighter and Neil Higgins almost got through on goal early on before captain Mark Broadley saw his header saved.

But even in the opening stages Masham looked dangerous on the counter and up front Andrew Maddren was showing decent pace that would surely threaten.

In truth, Hampsthwaite's best chances came early on when Masham's defending could be called almost comical, but though Mark Brennan and Jim Farrar applied much pressure, clear cut chances were scarce and the score remained goalless.

Masham's defence eventually restored order, largely due to the vocal encouragement from Scotsman David Stephen at the back, and once they had mastered Hampsthwaite's offside trap, the visitors started going close.

Doug Arnold first headed at the 'keeper when he might have done better and then saw a Beckham-esque free-kick tipped over the 'bar.

Maddren continued to terrorise with his pace and after he saw a fine header again tipped over the 'bar, Doug Arnold went closest to scoring with a thumping drive that was well held by Hampsthwaite's Stewart.

Hampsthwaite were hanging on, but after a quick stop for a drinks break, Masham eventually struck a killer goal on the brink of half-time.

Inevitably, it was Maddren, and he calmly headed into an empty net after Andrew Mills' superb cross had lobbed Stewart in goal.

The Hampsthwaite XI looked gutted and seconds later the whistle blew for half-time leaving it up to player-manager Farrar to re-galvanise his troops.

"There's a big strong forward out there," he admitted, in reference to Maddren but the message was to "show guts and stay positive".

Masham's Mark Skeet meanwhile was not happy with his side, despite them leading, and he later admitted that he had reminded his players they were playing for their place in the cup final with Thirsk Falcons.

Skeets' message was evidently heard loud and clear and though Hampsthwaite did show guts after the break, Masham put on a performance that merited a standard above Division One of the Harrogate League.

After a quiet first half, Maddren's strike-partner Danny Nicholson looked sharp and after he went close, Masham doubled their lead through David Currie.

Again a header, he converted Stephen's cross who was continuously pushing on from his right-back position in Danny Mills fashion.

"Not much to write about mate," admitted a watching Hampsthwaite reserve player and he was right in relation to his side.

One player attempting to change this though was Hampsthwaite's Mark Brennan up front.

He was penalised for a controversial foul when in on goal, but after Masham wasted good chances through Nicholson and Arnold, his turn eventually came.

With ten minutes to go, Neil Higgins, the sole creator in Hampsthwaite's midfield, put Brennan through and he blasted home a tasty finish to make it 2-1.

Cheers echoed from the sidelines but Masham's Skeet was practically tearing his hair out.

"Oi, they shouldn't even be in the game lads," he yelled at his players, but just when it looked as if Masham could squander the points they replied with two goals in seven minutes.

First, Chris Boyle nipped in at the back post to head home and make the points safe but there was still time for Maddren to add another, and he did so with headed goal number four, after sterling work from right-back Stephen.

With the game all but over the excitement switched to rushing back to the clubhouse to see the world's most famous steeplechase.

But in between that mad rush and the final whistle there was still chance for a quick chat with managers Farrar and Skeet.

A downbeat Farrar said: "It's disappointing but I felt 4-1 definitely flattered them. We should still stay up though."

While a delighted Skeet revealed: "This group of players have only been together for 12 months and at times we played some nice football. There should be more to come."

Playing like this Masham could well give runaway leaders Thirsk Falcons something to think about when they meet in eight days' time.

Hampsthwaite United: Stewart, Broadley, Clarke, Brockhill, Armstrong, Black, Higgins, Conlon, Farrar (Bowdler 66), Brennan, Renton. Subs not used: Hay, Coates.

Masham: Wetherill, Stephen, Shorthouse, Currie, Wetherill, D Arnold, H Arnold, Boyle, Maddren, Nicholson (Skeet 88), Mills (Graves 51).