With a stoppage time winner, Ilkley Town AFC secured a sensational victory over a strong Ashton Town side in a must-win clash. After trailing by two goals following a lacklustre first half, the Baht’atters succeeded in overturning the deficit to record an impressive 4-3 win, earning a much-needed three points, writes Matthew Lambe.
At half time – trailing 1-3 - few of the 90 fans could’ve predicted the events of the second half, but a magnificent second half performance – and goals from Tom Smith, Matt Swift plus a brace from Kevin Gonzalez - in pouring conditions brought some early festive spirit to the MPM Stadium.
Knowing that a lot of work was needed to stage a comeback, the Baht’atters began the second half brightly, and straight away Smith nearly brought his side within one as his effort was dragged narrowly wide from a George Gomersall cross.
The Baht’atters continued to pile on the pressure, with Gonzalez coming close to finding the target, only for his powerful near-post strike to be parried out for a corner. Moments later, he was on the receiving end of a deft chip from Gomersall, and sent keeper Cookson to the floor before he was tackled just prior to tapping home.
Eventually, Ilkley’s sustained pressure paid dividends as Matt Swift found the bottom corner to bring hope to the hosts’ comeback. A routine free kick squirmed through Ashton’s defence to reach Swift, whose first-time finish was delicately placed back across goal.
At the other end, Michael Clifford executed a stunning one-handed save to deny the visitors restoring their two-goal cushion. From a free kick, a close range header was destined for the top corner, but Clifford was equal to it and parried it out for a corner.
Gonzalez added his name to the scoresheet following a quality team move, ensuring the game was all square entering the final 10 minutes. He pounced on Hudson’s low cross and hammered home beyond the reach of Cookson, teeing up a thrilling finale.
Having been on the wrong end of so many injury time winners, Gonzalez’s 93rd strike felt all the more special. Captain Harry Brown worked his way into the box, then squared to Gonzalez, who made no mistakes as he drove his effort through the crowded path to goal, causing the Baht’atters players to fall to the ground in sheer jubilance as the ground erupted.
This dominant display in the final 45 minutes was in such contrast to the first half, where Tom Smith’s half volley was Ilkley’s sole shining light.
Ashton’s third goal, courtesy of Malumo, was a stroke of brilliance, but sloppy mistakes proved costly in allowing the visitors two further goals. However, Ilkley’s defence were much more disciplined in the second half, shutting out Ashton’s attack for the most part and limiting them to only a couple of chances.
This victory could prove vital in the Baht’atters season, marking a change of form after their recent run of losses, and should inspire excitement over the Christmas period.
Next up, Town enjoy back-to-back home fixtures to see out the year: firstly hosting Bacup Borough on 18th December, then welcoming South Liverpool to the MPM Stadium on December 28th.