West Riding County Amateur League Premier Division: Lower Hopton 2 Steeton 1

STEETON'S title hopes took a big dent with defeat at their rivals, who went top for the first time this season.

The Chevrons were left feeling aggrieved at not being awarded a goal early on as they slipped to their first loss since December.

On a good playing surface which allowed some attractive play, the visitors thought they had opened the scoring through Sam Rooke in the eighth minute. The ball was scooped back into play and, although the referee appeared to point to the centre spot, he allowed play to continue to the astonishment of the visitors.

To rub salt into the wound, the ball was hoofed into the other half of the pitch and Nathan James slotted past keeper Wayne Mahomet to give the hosts the lead less than 30 seconds later.

It lasted only six minutes as the Lower Hopton defence struggled to contain the pace of Alex Yates. He dribbled the ball into the penalty area and was bundled to the ground, skipper Michael Rhodes confidently stroking the resulting spot-kick home.

The Steeton goal was not seriously threatened during the rest of the half while, at the other end, they failed to capitalise on a number of fumbles by the home goalkeeper. Striker Graham Holmes saw close-range efforts clear the bar and go narrowly wide after he had been fed both times by Andy Holden.

Early in the second half Steeton were grateful to Mahomet's safe hands as he caught a fierce goalbound effort and punched away a dangerous looking cross.

Three superb long passes, one by Joe Mason, one by Alistair Morgan and another by Tim Hird, put Yates through but on all three occasions he was thwarted by good defending.

On 72 minutes, after a period of sustained pressure, the hosts scored the winning goal when a speculative long-distance drive by James through a crowd of players found the bottom corner.

In the dying minutes Rooke joined the attack but the home defence stood firm, though sub Ben Clarkson did go close after a mazy run.

Victory would have taken Steeton above Lower Hopton but instead they remain in fifth place.

Boss Roy Mason expressed his disappointment but urged his side to bounce back, with a huge game next week against West Yorkshire League Division One side Boroughbridge in the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup semi-final.

He said: "We were very unlucky on Saturday and I didn't think that the players deserved that. The one thing I always ask is that they give me 100 per cent and they did that to a man in baking conditions. From where I was standing we didn't get the rub of the green with the referee's decision regarding the goal as it looked over the line to me and the players certainly thought it had gone in.

"That said it's our first defeat since December and we need to dust ourselves down and go again as we have some big games coming up over the next few weeks."

There are still coach tickets available for next Wednesday's semi-final, which takes place at County headquarters at Woodlesford, kick-off 7.30pm.

They can be purchased, at a reduced cost of £4, from the Goat's Head in Steeton and Boltmakers Arms in Keighley, as well as from the club.

Before that, Steeton are away to Honley on Saturday in the league.

Steeton: Mahomet, Mason, Hunter, Morgan, Rooke, Hird, Holden, Rhodes, Yates (Clarkson), Holmes, Briggs (Scott).

* Will Knight came off the bench to claim a second half hat-trick as Steeton reserves came from 1-0 down to beat basement side Westbrook 3-1.