In their final pre-season friendly before the beginning of the highly anticipated NWCFL, Ilkley Town AFC comfortably beat Otley Town 4-0 thanks to goals from James Hughes, Ben Atkinson and a brace from Kevin Gonzalez, writes Matthew Lambe.
Initially the game was played at a high tempo, with chances for both sides within a couple of minutes of kick-off. Tom Smith fired over from close range, whilst the hosts saw an effort dragged narrowly wide.
After only four minutes, the Baht’atters broke the deadlock with a volley from James Hughes. He received the ball in the box, before blasting a powerful shot into the top corner, giving his side a dream start.
Not resting on their laurels, the visitors continued to press forward and were rewarded with a second goal within 10 minutes. Tom Fleming floated a cross towards the far post where it was met by Gonzalez, who guided his header beyond the keeper.
The next half hour saw Simon Armstrong’s side enjoy the majority of possession, although the Otley defence held tight and limited chances. Despite this, Tom Smith found himself in a position to shoot after good play from Joe Garside, but his strike rocketed over the bar.
On the stroke of half time, Ilkley almost added a third when James Hudson’s well-timed run left him one-on-one, but his looped attempt was just wide.
Half-time substitute Ben Atkinson nearly created a fabulous goal, as he tracked back to win possession then darted forward before playing an inviting cross.
The Otley keeper was called into action again, this time to deny a long range effort from Aaron Davis.
A disallowed goal prevented Ilkley from grabbing a third; from a Davis through ball, Hughes chipped over the keeper and towards the near post, only for the referee to deem it as offside.
At the other end of the ground, Otley would’ve bagged a lifeline goal had it not been for a superb sliding challenge from Darren Munday, whilst keeper Callum Gladding produced a fine stop to deny their striker from close-range.
Entering the last 10 minutes, Simon Armstrong’s side were back in cruise control, and Kevin Gonzalez bagged his second of the game. Davis threaded a through ball into Gonzalez, who made no mistakes as his strike blasted into the bottom corner.
Ilkley added another in quick succession, this one courtesy of Atkinson. Following a couple of blocked shots, Atkinson found the top corner with a curling strike from long range, taking his side to an impressive 4-0.
Moments later, the whistle blew for full-time, concluding a comfortable victory for the Baht’atters.
Next weekend, Ilkley welcome Bury AFC for the opening game of the NWCFL season, in a match which has already sold out with 500 set to attend.