In front of an 120 strong crowd, Ilkley Town AFC recorded a convincing win over a competitive Runcorn Town side. Tom Smith opened the scoring just five minutes in, before goals in the second half courtesy of Nathan Hunt and James Hughes saw the Baht’atters extend their lead - whilst a solid defensive display ensured a clean sheet, writes Matthew Lambe.
The Baht’atters took the lead after five minutes, after Smith beat goalkeeper Connor Eastham from close range. Ben Clarkson’s low cross from the wing found Smith, and he made no mistake with the finish.
Wanting to further extend the advantage, Ilkley peppered the Runcorn area with chances; initially Harry Brown struck a thunderous effort that clattered off the woodwork, before the skipper was denied by a fingertip save by Eastham.
From the subsequent corner, Matt Swift rose above the defence and aimed a towering header destined for the back of the net, but Eastham denied the centre back of a goal.
Tom Fleming danced past the visitors defence with a marauding run, and once again Eastham prevented the Baht’atters from doubling their lead, this time stretching a foot out to stop Fleming.
Following this, Runcorn had a string of corners, each of which was dealt with little fuss by the defence. On the most threatening corner, Charlie Bell managed to parry the ball off the line with a strong hand.
Shortly before the interval, George Pearson tried his luck from long range, and his powerful strike flashed narrowly wide.
Early in the second half, Runcorn piled on the pressure, but the Baht’atters defence withheld all that came their way. A block from Swift prevented captain Chad Whyte from shooting, whilst Bell was called into action again, saving a header from close range.
At the other end of the MPM Stadium, Jack Lane almost bagged his second goal in as many games with a half volley, but his effort whistled past the post.
In the 78th minute, Nathan Hunt gave the Baht’atters a two-goal cushion; Clarkson beat the offside trap before playing across goal to Hunt, who tapped home with ease.
Shaban Mehmeti was brought on, and his impact was immediately felt. He received a neat through ball from Lewis Seyffert, nutmegged the opposition and drove down the wing before being eventually fouled.
Fellow substitute James Hughes nearly scored with his first touch, after he was played through by Mehmeti, but Eastham narrowed the angle to prevent a third.
Hughes added a third in injury time to seal the result. On the edge of the box with defenders closing him down, he produced an arrowing effort that nestled in the bottom corner.
Not only was the defending solid and the attacking clinical, but the excellent midfield of Brown, Hunt and James Nightingale were ever-present, allowing the ball to be played through the thirds throughout.
Next up, Town have consecutive away games. On Wednesday 10th August, they travel to Bacup Borough for an evening kickoff, before playing newly promoted side FC St Helens on Saturday 13th August.