In a game blighted by controversy, Ilkley Town AFC secured a draw against a determined AFC Blackpool side thanks to a brace from Tom Smith. However, the score line doesn’t tell the story of the game, with two disallowed goals for the Baht’atters and some contentious officiating, writes Matthew Lambe.
The pitch had faced an inspection hours before kickoff, but was deemed playable.
Ilkley’s winger Kevin Gonzalez was between the sticks, as Charlie Bell was unfortunately involved in an accident en route to the game. We send him our very best wishes and hope for a speedy recovery.
Within the opening half hour, Smith registered his sixth goal of the season. He outmuscled the defence before squaring to skipper Harry Brown; his initial effort was saved but managed to find Smith with the follow-up, who made no mistake as he volleyed beyond the defenders on the line.
The Baht’atters’ lead was short-lived, with the hosts restoring parity barely five minutes later. A goalmouth scramble ensued and Kyle Higham poked the ball home via a deflection off the post.
Sam Dexter’s side had a flurry of chances as they looked to restore their lead: Matt Swift’s strike whistled just wide, whilst goalkeeper Dan Hall was spared his blushes after he recovered in the nick of time after miskicking a back pass.
At the other end of Jepson Way, stand-in shotstopper Gonzalez was called into action, diving down to block a powerful effort.
Shortly before half time, the first piece of drama occurred. Smith bagged his second of the half after converting Jack Lane’s low cross, but the referee disallowed it for handball despite the linesman’s attempts to overrule him.
In the second half, the hosts were awarded a penalty after the referee claimed to have seen a handball from an Ilkley player. Striker Ben Duffield stepped up and converted the resulting penalty, giving the Lancastrian outfit the advantage entering the final half hour.
The condition of the pitch was worsening due to earlier rain, which subsequently caused a greater volume of chances. Swift and Nathan Hunt were both agonisingly close to an equaliser and an effort was deflected wide on the goal line, whilst Gonzalez caused a heart in the mouth moment for the travelling Ilkley faithful after using skill to beat Duffield in his own box.
Further controversy occurred in the 85th minute when Nicc Hewitt converted George Gomersall’s corner with a diving header into the top corner, only to be disallowed by the referee for a foul on Hall. Not only was the goal overturned, but the goalscorer himself also received his marching orders in the midst of the action.
In an already bizarre match, there was to be one final twist. In the final minute of injury time, Alfie Dean was fouled inside the box after a mazy run, giving Smith the opportunity to level the scoring with virtually the last kick of the game. Despite the goalkeeper diving the right way, Smith withstood the pressure and plunged his penalty into the back of the net, causing the visitors’ bench to erupt into celebrations.
This was to be the final action of the game, leaving the points shared in a game filled with drama.
Looking to the future, Town travel several hours up north to face Cleator Moor Celtic – the longest away trip of the season – on November 5th, before welcoming Daisy Hill to the MPM Stadium on 12th November.
(Photo Credit: Paul O’Brien)