Fairhurst double helps Knaresborough Town overpower Kirk Deighton to scoop Whitworth Cup
Chris Fairhurst’s brace gave Knaresborough Town back to back Whitworth Cup triumphs after a dominant display over spirited Kirk Deighton Rangers.
Fairhurst, a Rangers Sunday League player, struck two second-half goals from outside the box to allow Knaresborough’s Reserve team to celebrate victory at full-time at the CNG Stadium.
Getting to the prestigious final had already been a proud achievement for Rangers, but the gulf between Dan Marshall’s Harrogate and District League outfit and their West Yorkshire League counterparts ultimately told.
A deflected effort put Knaresborough in front, before Fairhurst added the icing to the cake in the very last minute of injury time with a fine low strike.
The opening half an hour turned the match into a cagey affair, with well-intentioned passing football struggling to break the opposition down from both ends.
Knaresborough winger George Eustance was first to trick his way to the byline and he stood up a cross that young striker Josh Yanak headed yards wide
Kirk Deighton pressure followed with lethal frontman Olly Aspy opening his stride before unleashing one effort tamely wide from distance
A mix up in the Kirk Deighton defence then presented Ben Joyce a run on goal, but under pressure from keeper Jonty Smith, the Boro striker forgot to touch the ball. As the ball swept out to the edge of the box, Yanac tried to curl beyond the backtracking Smith but his shot deflected narrowly wide.
Twenty minutes in, Mark Fox played an incisive ball forward for Joyce inside the attentions of central defenders Graham Cowgill and Gaz Colling. The striker weaved between the Deighton duo but his left-footed shot went straight at Smith.
Two minutes later Lewis Riley’s shot looked destined for the Deighton corner but Alex Wooler lashed clear off the line.
Five minutes before the break, the enthusiastic Joyce burst down the left but blew his shot high into the new stand at the CNG Stadium.
Despite being on the back foot for the majority of the half, Rangers could have nicked the lead just before the break. Aspey tricked his way to the byline on the left-wing and picked out teammate Rob Holiday, but the Deighton man failed to connect firmly with the ball and the chance went begging.
The early moments of the second half failed to spring the game out of the deadlock, although Rangers’ Mike Cooper picked up the game’s first caution for a mis-timed tackle on Yanak.
The breakthrough finally arrived on 57 minutes, with a mighty deflection in the favour of Knaresborough’s second string. Chris Fairhurst drove the ball from distance, and it cannoned off a Blues defender into the corner of the net, leaving Smith stranded.
Boro should have doubled their lead moments later after neat work down the right wing by Joyce fed the ball across for Paul Atkinson, who fired well high over the bar from six yards.
Another chance fell to the West Yorkshire League outfit, who had clearly lifted their level of intent against a tiring Deighton. A poor kick from Smith from the left back position went straight to Yanak, but with the goal gaping at his mercy, he curled two yards wide from 25 yards.
Mike Bligh took off his Knaresborough captain Mike Harper - on a yellow card - on 65 minutes with Ally Wilson shoring up the defence.
In the opposition dugout, Dan Marshall also utilised his pack of subs. Mike Large replaced right-back Danny Williams and Luke Trower came on for Wooler.
The changes almost had the worst effect for Rangers, though, as Atkinson flashed a tremendous volley just wide of the post.
Rangers huffed and puffed to find an equaliser with several balls into the box, but they failed to fashion out a clear cut opportunity. Aspey wasted one chance as he burst forward before over-running the ball.
George Eustance almost made certain the trophy stayed at Manse Lane for another year when he raced down the left wing, but his shot across goal went just wide.
The talented winger was at the heart of another move soon after, but he shot straight at Smith from 12 yards.
Deighton were given one final opportunity to level with a free-kick just outside the area. Nine players made their way into the box, including the keeper Smith, but the ball was well defended by Boro before Richard Strike had a fresh air shot as he went for a sensational volley.
And with the clock ticking into its final minute, man of the match Fairhurst found a yard of space outside the box to lash a smart effort into the bottom corner.
That concluded a gripping final, which Knaresborough showed their higher league class and superior fitness to edge out the spirited Harrogate League side.
Knaresborough Town’s Mike Bligh said: “To win it, first season in, with these lads here, it’s brilliant.
“It’s a great achievement for the team and I really enjoyed it. We’ve been through the throws of everything. The big guys coming on and putting the pressure on at the end. Kirk Deighton came here and played their part in the game. They stuck at it and competed very well. It really disrupted us.
“We had to stick at it. We lacked the quality in the first half and we weren’t quick enough. We asked them to lift the tempo in the final third and be decisive. And that’s what they did.
“Chris Fairhurst was outstanding in midfield. He’s a young lad with a great engine, finding his way. I’m really pleased for him.”
Kirk Deighton boss Dan Marshall added: “I’ve got no complaints. We said before, let’s just go and give it our best and that’s what we have done.
“We were up against a tough side tonight and I don’t think we disgraced ourselves. The lads gave everything. We wanted to get to that final this year and we did it. It’s always nice to try and go one better so next year we’ll be going againt to try and win it.”