A FANTASTIC end to a previously underwhelming season saw Silsden Under-18s retain the Craven Aire and Wharfe Junior League’s Premier Cup competition.

Silsden went into the game on the back of some indifferent performances against a pacy and combative Oxenhope team, many of which played for Oxenhope’s open age team which won the Keighley Supplementary Cup a week ago.

For most of the Silsden team it would be their last match in junior football, and after a disappointing league campaign which promised so much in September but ultimately ended with a third place finish, this would prove to be a redemptive coda to their final season as a team.

Oxenhope, league runners up, started strongly and with their wingers, especially the Macauley Smith, quickly getting behind the Silsden back four, and captain Jake Scott pulling the strings in midfield with team-mate Keenan Potts, it was a worrying first 15 minutes for the Reds.

Sils did start to get to grips with Oxenhope’s pace and the first half was short of many clear-cut chances from either team, but with Oxenhope exerting more pressure and enjoying the majority of the possession.

That said, Silsden’s Harry Richardson came closest to scoring after good work from Brad Gardner, who was the brightest attacking spark for the Cobbydalers in the first half.

Silsden gave away a succession of free-kicks around their area and, in the 44th minute, Oxenhope punished them.

A free-kick from 30 yards out was driven to the far post where slack marking allowed an unchallenged header across goal, with the follow-up thudded against the crossbar, and Sam Finnigan the quickest to react driving Oxenhope into the lead from six yards. Oxenhope pressed again before the break forcing a corner which was cleared by the Silsden defence.

Undoubtedly, Oxenhope deserved their half-time lead and Silsden were relieved to go in and sort themselves out.

Whatever the Silsden management team of Steve Broadbent and Rich Milner said at half-time worked. Silsden came out with renewed vigour and verve and took the game to their opponents immediately.

On the 55th minute their endeavours were rewarded, albeit fortuitously, when Dylan Ward fed Richardson who’s shot from 12 yards was partially saved by the advancing goalkeeper but trickled over the line while the Oxenhope defenders watched but forgot to react.

Oxenhope seemed shell shocked and never really recovered.

In a game of few chances Pat Valentine and Tom Broadbent started to win more ball and through them Silsden were able to control the pace of the game.

Jack Brockbank and Joe Whitlock started to combine on the left to good effect with Whitlock starting to cause the Oxenhope defence some worries with his probing runs into the box.

Silsden put on last year’s cup final hero Joe Dearnley and after an injury to Ward Ollie Firth came into the Silsden front line.

Both made immediate impressions, Dearnley with his strong running and physicality and Firth with his pace and guile.

The two combined brilliantly on 70 minutes when Firth turned his marker in the centre circle and played a delectable through ball for Dearnley to run on to.

Taking the ball 35 yards out, he cruised into the penalty area out pacing a static defence and finished superbly low to the ‘keeper’s right.

Oxenhope worked hard for the last 20 minutes but the Silsden back five of Roberts, Marchini, Meakin, Milner (who has only just turned 17 and has played in every position for Silsden this season including goalkeeper) and Brockbank stood firm offering Oxenhope no easy route back into the match.

Subjected to half-chances and long range efforts, Oxenhope visibly flagged and following a corner in the 91st minute a Marchini tackle on Oxenhope skipper Scott exemplified the Cobbydalers fighting spirit and will to win.