Bradford Sunday Alliance Championship: Crossflatts Village 6 Thornton United Reserves 0

CROSSFLATTS' elder statesmen took centre stage in Sunday’s emphatic win.

Village player-manager Kevin Gill was missing several regulars from the previous week’s excellent West Riding County FA Sunday Cup fourth round win over Fryston, including four-goal hero James Gill, who was out injured.

He had to call upon three club old-timers, who all put in telling performances.

The home side’s goals came from Lewis Morgan, veteran Ronnie Cartwright, and two apiece for Colin Schofield and skipper Matthew Bentham (including a penalty).

And it was flame-haired midfield veteran Cartwright who was man of the match after a trademark all-action display.

He slotted back into central midfield like he hadn’t been away, with the 49-year-old maestro capping his recall to the starting XI with a well-taken goal.

“Rocket” Ronnie’s performance left some fans wondering why he has been left on the bench for most of the season so far. After Sunday’s show, he would appear to be undroppable and Gill now has a selection headache when all his squad become available.

Former captain Craig Durn also made a welcome return to the fold. The 35-year-old no-nonsense centre-back came on as a second-half substitute. Durn is on the cusp of full fitness and is knocking on the door for a first-team recall.

But the most pleasing aspect of the day for player-manager Gill was the eagerly-anticipated return of 38-year-old midfield play-maker Lee Bailey after a serious back injury.

Bailey came on after 70 minutes and made an instant impact. Known as 'The Sprinkler' due to his exquisite passing capabilities, he was a constant threat with his ball-playing skills and tenacity in defence.

It wasn’t long before Bailey stamped his authority on the game when he delivered a sumptuous through-ball for Colin Schofield, who completed the scoring after rounding the keeper for his second.

The game also saw a return to goal-scoring form for skipper Bentham who scored a couple of goals, with one of them coming from the spot.

The returning Bailey was pleased to get 20 minutes under his belt but admits he still has to work on his fitness if he is to regain his place in the starting line-up.

He said: “It’s good to be back in the mix. The back’s fine now but my fitness levels are a bit poor. I need to shift a couple of stones then there will be no stopping me. I hope Oliver Metcalfe, Matthew Bentham and James Gill are looking over their shoulder because I want my starting place back. There’s lots of games still to be played this season and I am looking forward to contributing.”

Bailey went on to praise fellow veteran Cartwright. He said: “Ronnie is a machine. He just keeps going. I’ve played with him for over 20 years and he’s showing no sign of letting up. It’s his 50th birthday next year and he’s fitter than most players who are only half his age. He’s the sort of guy that would run through brick walls for the team.”

Player-manager Gill now admits that the return of his three senior players will give him plenty to think about in coming weeks.

He said: “Ronnie, Lee and Craig were fantastic and they have all proved that age is only a number and that you can’t buy experience.

"Some of the younger lads should look at these three as role models. Sunday just showed us what a good squad we have. The game was a bit of a scrappy affair but was always going to be a bit of a comedown after the highs of the previous week but we got the three points and we move forward." Village host Harrogate Road FC in the league on Sunday as they aim to keep the pressure on leaders Station Hotel.

* Crossflatts' reward for beating Fryston in the last 16 of the County Sunday Cup is a home tie against Castleford & District Sunday League outfit Woodman Sports Club on Sunday, February 4.

Village assistant manager Les Cooper said: "There are no easy games at this stage, and we still have some big games to prepare for before that one."