Edward reached Pontefract on 27 March, having passed through Cambridge and Nottingham. Here he concentrated his forces, but the Duke of Norfolk was not yet arrived. Norfolk was sickly (he was to die on 6 November 1461) and his troops may have been commanded (nominally) by his young son, John Mowbray or (in practice) by his kinsman, Sir John Howard. Anyway, the Mowbray East Anglians were missing in the initial phases, putting Edward at a serious disadvantage.
Edward ordered Lord Fitzwalter to take the bridge over the Aire at Ferrybridge. Fitzwalter initially secured the bridge (which had not been guarded) but early next morning was taken by surprise by a Lancastrian force under Lord Clifford (aka 'Butcher Clifford.') In a fierce fight the Yorkist contingent was driven off, with the deaths of Fitzwalter and Sir Richard Jenney (Warwick's illegitimate half-brother.)
This was bad news indeed for the Yorkists, but Edward did not panic. Instead he sent Lord Fauconberg (Warwick's uncle) to take the bridges over the Aire at Castleford and then attack Clifford in the rear. Fauconberg undertook this task with great success, taking the Lancastrians by surprise and more or less wiping out their contingent. Clifford himself was among those killed. The road was now open for the main Yorkist army (still missing Norfolk) to cross the Aire and take up positions ready to attack the Lancastrians next day, 29 March, which was Palm Sunday.