On a rainy Saturday afternoon, Ilkley Town AFC left Crilly Park with nothing to show for their efforts after falling to a determined Atherton Laburnum Rovers FC. Despite Luke Barker’s goal ensuring the Baht’atters led at half time, a sloppy five minute spell saw the hosts overturn the deficit and record a 2-1 victory, writes Matthew Lambe.
In the first half, Ilkley were disadvantaged by playing uphill on the noticeably sloping pitch. Nevertheless, they claimed a strong start with Matt Swift heading narrowly wide from a George Gomersall delivery.
Both sides registered few chances in the opening 45 minutes, but the visitors came extremely close after a miscommunication on Atherton’s part. A weak backpass was pounced on by Barker, who was tackled by keeper Joel Fletcher, allowing the ball to fall to Tom Smith; his effort was cleared off the line before Barker volleyed the rebounded over.
At the other end, Luke Nicholls blasted wide from close range to keep the game goalless.
In the 35th minute, the Baht’atters broke the deadlock through debutant Luke Barker. His initial strike beat Fletcher, but ricocheted off the post into open play. Barker pounced on the loose ball before the defender and calmly slotted home into an empty net, giving Sam Dexter’s side the lead into the interval.
Rovers began the second half sprightly, levelling the scores only a few minutes in. Nicholls weaved into the box before laying off to George Chadwick, whose first time strike sneaked across goal into the bottom corner.
In quick succession, Atherton bagged a second to complete the comeback. Joshua Abbott launched a powerful effort from distance following a challenge from James Nightingale, which nestled beyond Callum Gladding, leaving Ilkley with work to be do.
Moments later, the hosts were prevented from scoring a third only by a last-ditch sliding tackle from Josh Parker, who denied their forward from converting a one on one.
Entering the final stages, the Baht’atters piled on the pressure in search of salvaging a point. Smith saw his deflected effort fly agonisingly over the bar, as his side threw the kitchen sink and then some at the Atherton defence.
Chance after chance arrived, with Gomersall’s low attempt forcing a strong save out of Fletcher whilst Swift came close after another header, but the Rovers backline survived the pressure.
In injury time, the sting was taken out of Ilkley’s attack when Nightingale was shown a straight red for his challenge, and temperatures boiled as both sets of players gathered around the referee.
This action concluded the game, a clash in which the Baht’atters will feel like they deserved at least a point for their troubles, but consequently sees them slip down to 18th in the league table.
Next up, Town face Daisy Hill twice in a week, travelling to Lancashire on a Monday night before welcoming them to the MPM Stadium on Saturday 27th.