Ilkley Town AFC left the MPM Stadium victorious after defeating Atherton Laburnum Rovers FC in a match with few goals but no shortage of chances. The Baht’atters had a goal chalked off within the opening 10 minutes then took the lead through Kevin Gonzalez on the cusp of half time, while a strong defensive performance ensured the visitors couldn’t clinch an equaliser, writes Matthew Lambe.
In the 7th minute, Gonzalez scored from close range following a classy team move, only for the linesman to disallow the opener.
The hosts relentlessly pressurised Atherton’s defence and would’ve took the lead had it not been for goalkeeper Connor Beard; he tipped Harry Brown’s curling effort onto the post which was otherwise destined for the far corner.
However, Rovers posed a threat from set-pieces and almost restored parity after a corner was met by a towering header that flashed just wide. In the following moments, Sam Blackiston denied a powerful effort at the near post.
This encounter continued to be an entertaining watch for the neutral, with the Baht’atters flooding the visitors’ penalty box with chances. This time, George Gomersall spun past his man and drilled an effort on goal, but it was blocked at the last moment.
Nevertheless, Ilkley reaped the rewards of their sustained pressure. Gonzalez latched onto a through ball and slotted beyond the keeper into the far corner, ricocheting off the post. Controversially, the linesman deemed the ball to have not fully crossed the line – whereas the referee believed it had. After a long consultation the goal was given, much to the dismay of Atherton’s players.
In the midst of the controversy, Rovers’ Jamie Baguley was sin-binned for abuse aimed towards the referee, meaning his side were reduced to 10 men for 10 minutes.
Ilkley’s defence remained defiant against every Atherton attack and played an influential part in earning all three points. Josh Parker crucially intercepted a through ball that would’ve otherwise put Liam Crellin-Myers through on goal, whilst Matt Swift headed away an inviting cross in the six-yard box.
James Nightingale gained possession inside the centre circle and sparked a counter-attack which was almost finished by skipper Brown, but Beard was on hand to catch his long-range strike.
In the final 10 minutes, the hosts had several chances to secure the three points; Ben Clarkson fired over from point blank range following Alfie Dean’s marauding run, moments before Beard once again denied Gonzalez after George Pearson played him through.
The Ilkley faithful had their hearts in their mouths in the dying moments, as an Atherton player volleyed onto the crossbar from a goalmouth scramble.
After nine minutes of injury time, the referee blew for full time to give the Baht’atters the victory.
Next up, Town welcome Harrogate Railway to the MPM Stadium in the West Riding County Cup on 25th October, before travelling across the Pennines to face AFC Blackpool in the league on 29th October.