In the opening day of the NWCFL, 500 fans travelled to the MPM Stadium to see a highly entertaining encounter between league-newcomers Ilkley Town AFC and title-favourites Bury AFC. Whilst the Baht’atters provided a tough challenge – scoring twice within five minutes – the Shakers proved too much, recording a 4-2 victory, writes Matthew Lambe.
Initially the visitors enjoyed more of the possession, but the Ilkley defence held strong and limited chances for Bury. Despite this, after nine minutes forward Greg Daniels dragged an attempt narrowly wide, whilst keeper Tim Edney had to dive down low to prevent an on-target free kick.
Keen to continue the pressure, the Shakers pressed forward and nearly took the lead. Skilful winger Abimbola Obasoto cut inside before curling an effort over, and Edney had to produce a number of saves to maintain his clean sheet.
At the other end of the MPM Stadium, Simon Armstrong’s side came close to netting, with Josh Parker volleying from a corner only to be denied on the line by a block.
With the last kick of the first half, George Gomersall floated a cross towards James Hudson, who couldn’t quite make contact. As a result, the first half stayed goalless.
The second half was quite the opposite, with the Shakers breaking the deadlock only 30 seconds in. Following a looping cross, striker Andy McWilliam headed into the top corner from close range.
Not resting on their laurels, Bury added a second in quick succession, courtesy of centre back Ayomide Ibrahim. After a bouncing cross was played across goal, Ibrahim tapped it beyond Edney, giving his side a two-goal cushion over the hosts.
Almost from kick-off, the Baht’atters pulled a goal back thanks to James Hudson. He received a long ball over the Bury defence, and made no mistakes as he slotted the ball past the reach of Thomas Stewart, giving Ilkley a glimmer of hope for a comeback.
Only two minutes later – and still within the opening 10 minutes of the half – Ilkley registered a second goal to level the scoring. During a goalmouth scramble, James Hughes thundered a half volley that rippled the back of the net, concluding a frantic period which saw two goals from both sides.
This left the game wide open for the final half hour, with victory there for the taking for either team. Subsequently, both sides focused on attack, resulting in an entertaining spectacle for the fans. Bury had a penalty appeal waved away by the referee, whilst Gomersall fired a long range strike just over.
In the 70th minute, the Baht’atters had a goal ruled out, after Kevin Gonzalez chipped Stewart from an offside position.
Shortly afterwards, the Shakers restored their advantage, causing the MPM Stadium to erupt into cheers. Substitute Aidan Chippendale struck powerfully into the top corner from outside of the box, leaving Ilkley in need of another comeback.
With a couple of minutes remaining , Bury won a penalty after a foul on the edge of the box. Chippendale stepped up to take, and bagged his second of the game as he converted into the bottom corner.
On the stroke of the final whistle, Gonzalez displayed great skill to get past two defenders, but Stewart denied him of a goal with a save at the near post.
Moments later the whistle was blew, concluding a six-goal thriller. Despite leaving without any points, the Baht’atters can take many positives from this performance, as well as knowing that they presented a tough test for Bury AFC, a side with far more experience at this level.
Next up Ilkley travel to Bacup Borough on a Tuesday evening for the second game of the NWCFL season.
(Image credit: Tom Whewell)