In the closing pre-season friendly, Ilkley Town AFC narrowly lost out to higher level opposition Garforth Town. The visitors scored two early goals before Tom Smith and Blake Wood restored parity by half time, but Garforth clinched the victory in an even second half, writes Matthew Lambe.
Garforth flew out of the blocks, catching the Baht’atters off guard. After receiving a drag-back, attacking midfielder Sam Barker found the top corner to give his side an early advantage.
The Baht’atters came close to finding an equaliser on several occasions, with Nicc Hewitt seeing his volley headed off the line and Blake Wood being denied by Garforth’s goalkeeper.
However, the visitors hit Ilkley on the counter attack to double their lead. Striker Matt Antcliff used a burst of pace to beat the defence and scored a rebound after Tim Edney’s initial save.
Approaching half time, Sam Dexter’s side halved the deficit through Smith. Shaban Mehmeti darted down the wing before finding Tom Smith with a low cross, who made no mistake in guiding the ball home.
Less than five minutes later the Baht’atters drew level, this time thanks to Wood. He evaded a tackle upon receiving Lewis Seyffert’s pass, before unleashing a long range effort which snuck under the visitors’ goalkeeper.
In the second half, Garforth restored their lead as Antcliff bagged his brace. His powerful finish nestled in the bottom corner, leaving Ilkley with work to be done approaching the final half hour.
Mehmeti almost gave the Baht’atters an equaliser within two minutes, after his deflected effort looked to be dipping just below the crossbar – but the goalkeeper’s flailing hand tipped the ball over for a corner.
Garforth pressed forward, looking to put the game to bed but Tim Edney stood in their way. He made multiple important stops, most notably catching a powerful effort to deny Antcliff claiming a hat trick.
This proved to be the last action, giving Garforth the victory in the friendly. Nevertheless, this was a competitive performance from the Baht’atters, meaning there are promising signs for the season ahead.
This result concludes a generally successful pre-season campaign, with three wins and three losses against mainly higher level opposition. More importantly, there has been plenty of rotation as the players look to prepare for the upcoming season.
Next up, Town welcome AFC Blackpool to the MPM Stadium on the opening day of the new season – 29th July – before travelling across the Pennines to Darwen on Wednesday 2nd August.