Baht’atters Prevail in Action-Packed Game On the opening day of the North West Counties Football League season, Ilkley Town AFC earned a comeback win over AFC Blackpool in dramatic fashion. After a goalless first half in which Sam Dexter’s side were dominant, the second half provided nonstop entertainment – including two penalties, a red card, a sin bin and a winner deep into stoppage time, writes Matthew Lambe.
The Baht’atters lineup had undergone several changes since the previous season, with goalkeeper Jordan Moorhouse and central midfielder Nick Brayshaw featuring in the starting XI as new additions. Meanwhile, Asa Lowe and goalscorer Harley Lambert were substitutes, having played for the under 23’s and Second Team last season.
In the first half, the visitors offered little attacking threat to Moorhouse in goal, allowing the Baht’atters to enjoy large periods of possession.
At the other end of the MPM Stadium, a string of good saves from Daniel Hall kept Ilkley at bay. He denied Takuo Jitsukawa’s acrobatic effort before parrying Shaban Mehmeti’s follow-up, then minutes later he pushed Hunt’s strike wide with a fingertip save.
On the stroke of half time, a direct passage of play down the right flank from the Baht’atters almost resulted in the opener. Moorhouse rolled the ball to Pearson, who found Mehmeti with a through ball, but his low cross was gathered by Hall just before Jitsukawa could score.
Ilkley began the second half promisingly with both Tom Smith and Mehmeti coming close to breaking the deadlock, but Blackpool’s defensive style of play kept the game goalless.
Tensions rose early in the second half, causing the referee to brandish yellow cards to Blackpools’ Reece Christopher and Ralf Threlfall-Newton.
The visitors won a penalty in the 55th minute, which they converted into the top corner, leaving Town with work to be done in the first game back.
Blackpool could’ve scored a second in quick succession to cement their lead, but their substitute striker squandered the opportunity from close range.
After an initial warning from the referee, Blackpool’s goalkeeper Hall was sin binned for dissent – meaning his side would be down to 10 men for 10 minutes and a backup keeper would be required.
With three minutes remaining until injury time, substitute Joe Edmonds combined with skipper Harry Brown in a clever corner routine which saw Edmonds fouled by Kane Cartwright. Despite the pressure, Hunt converted the penalty to restore parity.
The game almost took another twist as, in the 92nd minute, a Blackpool cross deflected off an Ilkley defender towards the net, but Moorhouse made a superb reflex save to prevent an own goal.
Moorhouse proved to be crucial once more, adding to his impressive league debut for Sam Dexter’s side. He caught a close range shot that looked destined to be the winner, and held onto the ball to deny a rebound.
Blackpool’s Cartwright received his marching orders from the referee with a professional foul, giving the Baht’atters a man advantage for the remainder of injury time.
Being down a player proved costly for the visitors, as Harley Lambert provided the final piece of drama with a last minute winner. He guided the ball around replacement keeper Fergus Hotchkiss before finding the back of the net from a tight angle.
Lambert’s well-taken goal was the last kick of the game, earning his side the three points in a fixture steeped in drama and unpredictability.
Next up, Town face Darwen FC away on Wednesday 2nd August before hosting Ashton Town at the MPM Stadium on Saturday 5th August.