by Nick Quaife
Barnbow veterans 2-3 Ilkley Town veterans
Despite only having 10 men for the majority of the game, Ilkley turned in their best performance of the season to beat a combative Barnbow side and set up a title decider against Harrogate next Sunday.
Ilkley, adopting a more attacking 3-5-2 formation and started brightly, taking the game to Barnbow.
The front pairing of Rob Pell and Jimmy Hannaford looked sharp and caused problems from the outset, with Pell hitting the crossbar early on from 20 yards.
The Ilkley midfield trio dominated their counterparts as Mark Brady revelled in a free central midfield role, he released Pell whose pinpoint cross after 10 minutes was glanced in with a trademark headed finish by Quaife.
Third placed Barnbow were no pushovers though and had a close range header superbly saved by Hargreaves before the red card incident. Barnbow broke quickly down the right flank resulting in an innocuous foul by Megson, who was then dismissed for something said to the referee. Ilkley had 70 minutes to play with 10 men.
Undeterred Ilkley kept up the pressure with Potts and Wood dominating the flanks. After 30 minutes it was Brady who opened up the Barnbow defence with a great pass to Hannaford who controlled, lobbed the on rushing keeper and calmly slotted Ilkley’s second. Rob Pell’s hamstring gave way at this point and on came Johnny Keith leaving Hannaford alone up front.
In the second half Ilkley had a superb opening 20 minutes, dazzling Barnbow with their link up play, movement and passing, culminating with the best goal of the game. Following fine team link play, Hannaford squared for top scorer Wood to clinically finish for 3-0.
In the final 15 minutes Ilkley brought on some fresh legs, which would backfire as it disrupted their momentum and structure. Barnbow took advantage and scored a couple of late goals which made for a nervy last 5 minutes, but Ilkley held on for a much deserved victory.
The title decider with Harrogate is on Sunday 19th March, 4pm kick off at Harrogate Town.