In extremely foggy conditions, Ilkley Town AFC overcame both Garstang FC and the adverse weather to record a resounding victory. Alfie Dean opened the scoring before Kevin Gonzalez added another a few moments into the second half, whilst excellent defending kept the visitors at bay and secured a second successive clean sheet, writes Matthew Lambe.
Questions were raised beforehand as to whether the game would go ahead or not, but the MPM Stadium passed the referee’s inspection.
With the first attack of the game, the referee waved away Garstang’s protests for a penalty following Matt Swift’s vital challenge.
Gonzalez came agonisingly close to finding the net, embarking on a mazy run before dragging his effort just wide.
In the 25th minute, Sam Dexter’s side took the lead courtesy of Dean. After receiving a through ball, he beat Garstang keeper Will Kitchen with a composed finish.
Largely due to the fog, there were minimal chances until the interval as both sides battled with the challenging conditions.
Dexter’s team talk appeared to have made an immediate impact, as Ilkley bagged a two goal cushion less than a minute into the second 45 - this time from Gonzalez. The Baht’atters talisman latched onto an inviting delivery to volley home from the edge of the six-yard box.
The Baht’atters continued to pepper the visitors’ box, and would’ve further extended their lead had it not been for Kitchen. Despite several venomous attempts from the hosts – most notably from skipper Harry Brown – the Lancastrian outfit’s keeper produced a string of excellent stops, limiting his sides’ deficit.
Perhaps as a result of the weather, the second half was largely played in the middle third of the pitch, but this was of much benefit to the Baht’atters, with the hosts’ midfield of Nightingale, Hewitt and Brown being influential throughout.
In the dying moments, Gonzalez was through on goal but his drilled strike was denied by Kitchen. At the other end of the MPM Stadium, Garstang sparked a counter-attack, but the centre-back partnership of Matt Swift and Josh Parker blocked the oncoming Zac Clark.
Swift’s and Parker’s defending proved to be the final action, rounding off an impressive performance from the Baht’atters.
Looking to the future, Town have consecutive away fixtures – the first being the rearranged fixture at Runcorn Town on Tuesday 24th January, before crossing the Pennines to face high-flying Pilkington on Saturday 28th January.
(Photo Credit: Paul O’Brien)