On the opening day of the new season, an impressive Ilkley Town AFC earned a resounding victory over Darwen FC, scoring three without reply. Debutant Jack Lane’s finish saw the Baht’atters lead at the break, before goals from Tom Smith and fellow debutant Shaban Mehmeti sealed the result, writes Matthew Lambe.
George Gomersall recorded the first chance of the season, as his low free-kick whistled just wide of the post.
Keen to continue their momentum, Sam Dexter’s side pressed forward, and were almost rewarded with an own goal from the Salmoners. A centre back mistimed a clearance from Ben Clarkson’s cross, and was only saved from embarrassment by the post, before Smith smashed the rebound wide.
At the other end of the Anchor Ground, Darwen’s wing back Gary Brasterfield provided an inviting cross, but striker Alfie Carmichael couldn’t make connection. Shortly afterwards, Charlie Bell was forced to push a deceiving shot out for a corner following a large deflection.
In the 37th minute, 18 year old Lane bagged the first goal of the game, and of the Baht’atters campaign. Alfie Heaton’s cross reached Lane, who made no mistake as he found the bottom corner with a powerful strike, giving the visitors an advantage heading into the interval.
George Pearson nearly added his name to the scoresheet: from a corner, fellow centre back Matt Swift nodded down for Pearson to volley, but he couldn’t keep his effort under the bar.
The Baht’atters lead was doubled in the 75th minute, courtesy of a calm finish by Smith. Lewis Seyffert blocked an attack from the hosts, before playing a long ball for Clarkson to chase. His first time cross found Smith, who knocked the ball past Lenny Fieldhouse, giving his side a two-goal cushion.
Within two minutes, substitute Mehmeti had added a third after a rapid counter attack. He received Nathan Hunt’s through ball near the centre circle, before beating two Darwen defenders for pace. As he entered the box, he twisted inside with a stepover, and his attempt nestled in the near post as he wheeled away in celebration.
Determined to maintain his clean sheet, Bell produced a great reflex save to deny Carmichael’s header from point blank range in injury time. Prior to this, Pearson headed off the line after a chip sailed over Bell, whilst Mehmeti had a second goal denied by the linesman deeming him to be offside.
This action concluded the match, in which the Baht’atters produced a commanding performance and consequently are third in the league table.
Next up, Town welcome the sole relegated side Runcorn Town to the MPM Stadium on Saturday August 6th, kick-off at 3pm, before travelling across the Pennines to face Bacup Borough on the following Wednesday evening, 10thAugust.