Walker at the double as Boro begin life in top flight with a win
Knaresborough Town recovered from a shaky start to life at step five of the non-league pyramid to record an opening-day victory over Albion Sports.
Brad Walker was the star of the show for the men from Manse Lane, netting twice in the second half to guide his side to a 2-1 success on their debut in the NCEL Premier Division.
The hosts had all the early pressure as 2017/18’s first division champions struggled to string two passes together.
Boro goalkeeper Liam Corbett was called upon during the opening exchanges to make a fine last-ditch tackle and deny Albion the opener when an attempted back pass fell short.
Ombeni Ruhanduka then shot narrowly wide for the home side, as did Jamal Stewart, before the Bradford outfit eventually took the lead.
There were 12 minutes on the clock when Ruhanduka headed in a left-wing cross for 1-0.
The goal shook Boro, but it was still some time before they settled down.
They did finally begin to show, and Colin Heath fired wide from Walker’s centre following Dan Thirkell’s through-pass.
Luke Stewart was off-target and Ben Cohen saw a strike saved before Gregg Anderson’s header was cleared from the goal-line from the resulting corner.
Walker then threaded a pass for Heath to run on to and unleash a shot that thudded against the top of the crossbar.
Ben Parkes shot wide after a quick break from defence, Cohen broke clear only to see his effort saved by Ashley Ontiri, and Walker was again wide as the visitors ended the half on top and aggrieved to still be trailing.
After the break, Cohen cut in from the left only to see Ontiri tip over and substitute Rob Worrall also brought a good save from the Albion goalkeeper following a corner.
In a rare home attack, a defensive misjudgement almost gifted Sports a second, but the ball was eventually scrambled away.
Visiting stopper Corbett then had to save well as Stewart cut in from the left and fired toward the Knaresborough goal, but a deserved leveller arrived for Paul Stansfield’s men in the 56th minute.
Worrall found Heath who fed in Walker, and last term’s top-scorer picked out the back of the net from a narrow angle.
At the other end, Corey Mortimer blasted over from a free-kick, but Boro soon countered and Parkes slammed a long-range strike against the top of Ontiri’s bar.
Walker then cut in from the right wing and into a gap created by Heath’s decoy run, and when many expected a pass, he fired left-footed into the top corner for a stunning 74th-minute winner.
Having got their noses in front, the visitors were able to hang on for maximum points, a late Dean Bartle strike as close as Albion came to an equaliser.
Next up for Boro is a trip to Ashington in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup on Saturday.