In the second round of the Macron Cup, Ilkley Town AFC were narrowly edged by a competitive Bacup Borough side in a penalty shootout. Trailing 1-0 at half time, a James Hughes-inspired comeback saw Sam Dexter’s side pull within one of the hosts, before George Pearson poked home a goalmouth scramble in the final minute to draw level at 3-3 and force a shootout, writes Matthew Lambe.
Neither side created a clear cut chance in the opening half an hour, largely due to the condition of the pitch, which stifled any innovative play.
Nevertheless, it was the hosts who created the first opportunity, from skipper Michael Gervin’s free kick. His threatening strike was well stopped by debutant keeper George Gregson, who showed his promise by keeping hold of the ball whilst under pressure from several Boro forwards.
Boro drew first blood around the half hour mark, again from a Gervin free kick. His low strike was placed beyond the reach of Gregson and nestled in the bottom corner.
Going a goal behind seemed to ignite a spark within the Baht’atters, as they played with more freedom and tenacity. James Hughes forced a fine save from keeper Harry Turner at the far post, whilst a marauding run from centre-back Matt Swift nearly saw his side restore parity.
In the 42nd minute, the first signs of animosity between the two teams were evident, when a Bacup player didn’t react kindly to a strong challenge from Luke Barker. Despite this, no cards were handed out, and shortly afterwards the half-time whistle was blown.
Boro gained a two-goal cushion barely a minute into the second half, with a nicely-worked team move. Callum Hewitt latched onto a cross-field ball, before finding the corner with a precise effort.
Almost from kick-off, Sam Dexter’s side halved the deficit. A well-weighted through ball found Hughes, whose first-time strike thundered across goal.
Within five minutes, the Baht’atters were back on level pegging, once again thanks to James Hughes. From the edge of the box, he forced another powerful strike through a mass of bodies in the box, beating a stranded Turner.
Following this, it was the Lancastrian side’s turn to fall foul of the challenging conditions. Their winger looked destined to score, but he slipped as the ball rolled to him, instead striking the air.
An aggressive challenge from Hewitt forced Elliot Scott to be substituted, and moments later Hewitt brought substitute Harry Brown to the ground - earning his side a free-kick in a promising position.
At the other end, Bacup took the lead again to make it 3-2. From a corner, a deceiving header bounced past the defence and rolled past Gregson, sparking wild celebrations at the Brian Boys Stadium.
In the 89th minute, further celebrations were sparked, this time by the Ilkley faithful. Tom Smith pinged the ball into the six-yard box, where it rebounded off several bodies, before George Pearson slammed home from a couple of yards out. However, the hosts were convinced the ball hadn’t full crossed the line, and adamantly protested to the referee.
This late drama ensured a penalty shootout was required to see who would progress into the 3rd round. Crucially, the shootout would be occurring at the end where the vast majority of home fans were, so there would be a hostile atmosphere for the Baht’atters penalty takers – and more importantly the keeper.
Tom Smith and James Hughes dispatched excellent penalties, but Aaron Davis’ effort hit the crossbar whilst Barker’s strike was blazed over. Bacup converted all four spot kicks, leaving the Baht’atters ruing.
Still, Ilkley demonstrated great character to twice draw level and earn a 3-3 draw at a notoriously difficult away ground, and required a shootout to be beaten by one of the leagues top teams.
Next up, Town face Golcar United away in the 3rd Round of the First Division Cup, which is likely to be on Monday 18th April at 3pm, although could be rescheduled due to the hosts playoff final.