On a mild Wednesday evening, Ilkley Town AFC overcame a competitive Bacup Borough side in a tense encounter, with almost 200 spectators present. A goal from substitute Shaban Mehmeti proved to be the difference between the two sides, whilst strong defending from the Baht’atters kept out the hungry Bacup forwards for a well-earned third clean sheet of the season, writes Matthew Lambe.
Potentially due to the uneven playing surface, both teams struggled to gain a foothold in the match, and subsequently the opening half hour saw end to end action. Full back Jack Lane looked threatening as he danced into the box, whilst Matt Swift had to clear the danger after the hosts launched a sudden counter attack.
Bacup would’ve opened the scoring had it not been for the crossbar coming to Ilkley’s rescue, as a thunderous strike from distance rattled the woodwork before bouncing back into open play.
Sam Dexter’s side enjoyed a spell of dominance, with chances flooding the hosts’ box. Ben Clarkson and Tom Fleming’s respective efforts flashed agonisingly wide, whilst a late block prevented Tom Smith from converting a fluid team move started by Nathan Hunt.
On the stroke of half time, tensions rose and a number of late challenges ensued, leading to lengthy stoppages as physios entered the pitch and players surrounded the referee. Nevertheless, the game was goalless at the break.
The second half began where the first left off, with no end of action - both in terms of attacking play and late tackles.
Goalkeeper Sam Blackiston was called into action, and calmly collected a troubling through ball whilst under pressure from the onrushing opponent.
Smith was tantalisingly close to breaking the deadlock, when he reacted quickest to the goalkeeper spilling Lane’s effort. However, he recovered in time and managed to block Smith’s rebound on the line. In the following chance, Swift’s glancing header flashed just past the post.
In the 72nd minute, substitute Shaban Mehmeti gave the Baht’atters the lead. He burst down the wing, outpacing the defence, before aiming a strike at the near post. Borough’s keeper could only get a hand to the ball, and subsequently it rolled across the line, sparking celebrations across the Ilkley dugout.
Town’s defence had to withstand a period of pressure from Bacup in the closing stages, but safe hands from Blackiston, and a pivotal sliding challenge from Swift in the final moments ensured the Baht’atters earned their clean sheet.
Seconds later, the referee blew for full time, giving Sam Dexter’s side the all-important three points.
Next up, Town travel across the Pennines to face newly promoted side FC St Helens on Saturday 13th August, before hosting Holker Old Boys at the MPM Stadium on 20th August, the following Saturday.