AMATEUR football still has the power to draw in the crowds, with hundreds of non-league football fans taking in the finals of both the Keighley Cup and Supplementary Cup over the last fortnight.

The highlight of the Keighley FA’s footballing calendar, the first Keighley Challenge Cup took place in 1908-09, with Sutton United claiming a 2-0 victory against Fell Lane United.

Silsden currently hold the record for the most Cup wins with 18, followed by Crosshills on 10. Sutton and Keighley Town have both lifted the trophy seven times, while going into the fixture, Oxenhope and Steeton had five wins each to their name.

Both 2022 finals were hosted at Silsden’s Office Interiors Stadium, with Oxenhope Recreation and holders Silsden Whitestar playing in the showpiece event last Friday and their respective reserve sides in action in a six-goal thriller in the Supplementary Cup the previous week.

It proved to be John Knowles’ Whitestar side who claimed the bragging rights on in the latter, running out 4-2 winners in front of a bumper crowd.

Though the Keighley Cup has seen a lack of interest this season, with just eight sides entering, it’s still a trophy that means a lot to many clubs, with Oxenhope manager Liam McNichol especially keen to replicate the success that saw him lift the cup six times as a player over the last 15 years.

Whitestar progressed to the final after overcoming fellow Craven League Premier Division side Bingley Town, before receiving a home walkover against Crosshills and seeing off Silsden’s West Yorkshire League side on penalties in the semis after a 1-1 draw.

Keighley News: Josh McNulty (centre) is one of Silsden Whitestar's star players. Picture: Richard Leach.Josh McNulty (centre) is one of Silsden Whitestar's star players. Picture: Richard Leach.

Oxenhope proved to be the competition’s top scorers, overcoming Craven League Division 3 Champions FC Keighley United 4-1 after their first meeting in January was abandoned with 20 minutes to play, before earning their place in the final with a 5-1 thrashing of hosts Denholme.

Over 400 fans packed into the Office Interiors Stadium last Friday, and the home crowd didn’t have to wait long before being sent into raptures.

After being played in down the channel with 10 minutes on the clock, Canadian signing James Wilson rounded Oxenhope keeper Eddie Jackson before slotting into the empty net.

But the scores were level at the interval after a flowing Oxenhope team move was finished off by top-scorer Ben Cox, who lashed the ball into the bottom corner from range.

The visitors started the better of the sides after the break, with Cox striking the crossbar from a free-kick before deservedly putting his side in front midway through the second half.

Lively forward Owen Williamson was fouled on the edge of the box before Cox deceived the Whitestar defence, firing the set-piece low under the wall and into the net.

Keighley News: Ben Cox scored a free-kick in Oxenhope’s nailbiting Keighley Cup clash against Silsden Whitestar. Picture: Ben Weatherall.Ben Cox scored a free-kick in Oxenhope’s nailbiting Keighley Cup clash against Silsden Whitestar. Picture: Ben Weatherall.

Williamson hit the post for Oxenhope late on, and his miss proved costly, with the hosts equalising with the last kick of the game.

In the fourth minute of added time, a corner was fired in from the left, with the referee ruling a Jackson own goal to send the tie to penalties.

The shootout was not without incident, with Oxenhope gifted a retake after Whitestar’s goalkeeper was adjudged to have been off his line.

That proved decisive, as, despite an admirable performance from both goalkeepers, Nathan Storton lashed the winning penalty into the bottom corner to see Oxenhope win the shootout 4-3.

“It probably shaved about five years off my life, having conceded in the last seconds of the game and having to go to penalties,” laughed McNichol.

“The lads thoroughly deserved a trophy for their efforts this year after missing out on promotion. We played poorly and lost our last couple of games, so I’m very proud of the mentality and willingness they showed to go again and win the trophy.

“They’re a very close-knit group, and anyone who joins the club finds that they’re embraced straight away and will create friends for life. Their ability has always been there, it’s just getting the team to perform consistently that’s been a struggle.

“To be honest, I’m more made up for them as players than for myself as manager. They’ve given me absolutely everything this year.”