By Jamie Woodhouse
West Yorkshire Premier League: Ilkley Town 2-2 Beeston St Anthony’s.
Lee Spires’ 88th minute goal earned an important point for Ilkley, as they look to pull away from the relegation battle with two games remaining.
Town are now unbeaten in six games, and the win was even more impressive considering the absence of key first team players such as Jack Murray, Adam Davey and James Turland.
It was these absences which caused joint first team manager Greg Beswick to name himself on the bench, alongside former first team manager Simon Armstrong. Daniel Keating and Jimmy Hannaford completed what was dubbed the “legends bench”.
Greg Beswick left, Daniel Keating centre, Simon Armstrong right.
Ilkley took the lead after just three minutes when a Spires corner found Adam Fowler. The centre forward controlled his header superbly, to loop the ball over keeper Stevie Kerr.
Spires almost doubled Town’s lead minutes later when his curling effort struck the post, before the chances began to die down, as both sides settled into the match.
Beeston’s improvement would pay off as they equalised in the 24th minute, as James Allan drove his header past James Hirst.
The visitors would then move ahead when Ryan Bailey’s low cross found the feet of Sean Jeavons in the box who slotted the ball home.
Just before half time the match would start to turn ugly. Spires and Paul McMullen both saw yellow after a confrontation, shortly followed by a yellow for Ilkley captain Danny Bott for a sliding tackle on Joe Hill.
Hirst was unable to continue for the second half with a leg injury, meaning Harry Higgins would take over in goal, with Jimmy Hannaford joining the game.
Beeston came very close to a third goal just after half time. Allan’s shot was well saved by Higgins before Darren Munday followed up with an excellent goal-line block, to keep Town in the game.
As a true game of end-to-end football broke out, Town would grab the late equaliser when Spires’ free kick fell perfectly to the feet of Bott who from close range put the ball past the keeper.
Reflecting on a well earned point for Town, Beswick said: “I think we have been really tenacious and worked until the end.
“We have had a really scratched side today so we have to take credit for the players who have managed to get out there today. With their work rate we really deserved to get something from the game I feel.
“We are now unbeaten in six games and it’s all about installing that winning mentality in the squad.”
This was Armstrong’s first senior game for two years, but the current head of player development enjoyed the game time he got. He said: “It was nice to get back out on the football pitch.
“If i’m being honest when I got the call at about 11am today, I wasn’t overly keen on playing, having not played for a couple of years but actually when I got the kit on and saw the pitch, I got into the game and I thoroughly enjoyed the run out.”