In a game action-packed with drama, Ilkley Town AFC prevailed victorious over St Helens Town, with goals courtesy of McCauley Smith, Ben Atkinson and an own goal. The Baht’atters took an early lead but goals from the visitors ensured a nervy ending, which saw a sending off and a sin bin for the visitors, writes Matthew Lambe.
Straight from the whistle, the Baht’atters were playing with vigour, causing problems for the St Helens defence. Kevin Gonzalez was denied a goal in the 4th minute which the linesman deemed offside following a well-executed team move, whilst both Smith and Gonzalez saw attempts saved or blocked on the line during a goalmouth scramble.
In the 10th minute, Smith broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion. He unleashed a rocket from 30 yards out that arrowed into the top corner, leaning keeper Ruairi McDaid no chance.
Simon Armstrong’s side continued to press forward, with Joe Garside nearly doubling the advantage from a free kick, before an own goal from Luke Colford rewarded their efforts. A deft through ball from Tom Smith released Ben Atkinson, whose near-post cross was turned in by Colford.
Towards the end of the first half, the visitors gained a foothold in the game, with Callum Gladding forced into action. He pushed wide a goal bound attempt, before catching an otherwise dangerous cross, giving his side a clean sheet and a two-goal cushion into half time.
St Helens pulled a goal back a couple of minutes after kickoff, as Stephen Brown headed into the top corner, with the ball bouncing off the crossbar on the way in.
Another fine save from Gladding prevented the visitors from grabbing an equaliser, as he stopped a powerful free kick from Phillip Clarke.
Approaching the hour mark, Atkinson restored the Baht’atters two goal lead with a composed finish. From a neat Harry Brown through ball, he slotted into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, leaving the supporters a little less nervous for the final half hour.
Despite this, St Helens clawed another goal back to set up a tense finale; substitute Jahquesai Smith tapped home a cross from Jamie Apperley.
Tempers flared as both teams were determined to take home the three points, and consequently goalkeeper McDaid was sin-binned for dissent towards the referee. As a result, a St Helens defender had to see out the remainder of injury time in net.
Further drama occurred when the visitors were shown a red card barely a minute later. Luke Colford was given a straight red for his clattering challenge on James Nightingale, leaving his side with nine men.
This caused an extension of injury time, and during this period St Helens threw everything they had forward, and could’ve equalised had it not been for the Baht’atters defence holding tight.
After a lengthy addition of injury time, the game drew to a close, giving Ilkley the precious three points to distance themselves from the relegation zone.
Next up, Town travel to AFC Blackpool on the 25th September, before making the short trek to local side Campion AFC on a midweek encounter.