By Nick Quaife
Harrogate veterans 2 Ilkley veterans 0
After losing to Ilkley in last season’s play off cup final, Harrogate deservedly regained their status as veterans champions with a comfortable two nil victory.
On a blustery afternoon at Harrogate Town’s CNG stadium both teams entered the final game of the season unbeaten, setting up a winner takes all finale.
Boasting a strong team of ex-professionals including Peter Beagrie, Jason Price and Mark Jackson, Harrogate started as strong favourites having only conceded 3 goals all season.
Playing into the wind, Ilkley set up with a 4-5-1 formation in an effort to flood midfield and suppress Harrogate’s attacking quality. This tactic initially worked well, with the Ilkley back four of Shankland, Dibb, Clarkson and Potts superb in marshalling the Harrogate attackers, with Hanogue and Quaife providing midfield protection.
Just before half time though disaster struck when Colin Hunter scored from 25 yards with a sliced shot going straight in the top corner, leaving keeper Chris Hargreaves with no chance. Ilkley were 1 nil down at half time but by no means out of it.
In the second half Harrogate continued to dominate possession and Ilkley had to thank Hargreaves for two magnificent close range saves to keep them in it.
Manager Davey tried to shake things up and made four changes in the second half, bringing on elder statesmen Dyson, Lofthouse and Nixon plus the combative Keith, but Ilkley found it hard to break down a resolute Harrogate defence.
Their best chances were confined to long range efforts from ex-Harrogate midfielder Brady and Quaife. Leading goal scorers Wood and Hannaford worked tirelessly but ultimately it was a frustrating afternoon for them and Ilkley.
With 10 minutes remaining Jason Price ran at Dibb and was clipped inside the box for a very innocuous penalty. Dibb who had played excellently was distraught. Up stepped Beagrie to blast home a well executed penalty, two nil and game over.
Ultimately Ilkley were outclassed but not outfought on the day. Harrogate end the season worthy champions but Ilkley will come again and now look for revenge in the end of season cup, which they won last year.