On a searing Tuesday evening, Ilkley Town AFC were narrowly defeated by Harrogate Railway in a heated clash, which subsequently had to be called off with two minutes remaining. Despite the Baht’atters taking the lead, Railway overturned the deficit in the second half, writes Matthew Lambe.
The visitors initiated a high-press strategy from the whistle, determined to restrict Ilkley to within their own half. Keeper Tim Edney was called into action, catching a header from close range and tipping a goal-bound effort wide.
The Baht’atters responded with a one-touch passing move, resulting in George Gomersall nearly finding an early goal.
Shortly before the drinks break, James Hudson produced an audacious chip to give Simon Armstrong’s side the lead. Gomersall brought a high ball under control and slipped a pass into Hudson, who took the ball round a defender before chipping into the roof of the net.
At the other end of the MPM Stadium, Josh Bowers and James Nightingale both executed goal-saving challenges inside the six-yard box to maintain Ilkley’s advantage.
Harrogate couldn’t have come closer to finding an equaliser, with their left-back’s strike beating Edney, only for the linesman to flag for offside.
The opening of the second half saw end-to-end football, with the Baht’atters enjoying the majority of possession.
The first signs of tension between the teams began to emerge, with tough tackles occurring for both sides.
In the 70th minute, Railway found an equaliser; a well-timed run enabled their number 7 to be through on goal, and he rippled the back of the net with a low finish.
Following this, the hosts recorded a string of chances , most notably their keeper denying Gomersall from a one-on-one, as well as a volley from James Hughes coming close.
Railway grabbed a late goal with only 10 minutes remaining to overturn the deficit. After a corner was nodded down in a dangerous position, their number 4 sealed the game with a volley into the top corner.
In the final few moments, a late challenge from Hughes evoked much anger from the Railway managers and players, with heated words exchanged. Despite this, the Ilkley physios rushed on to the pitch in aid of the injured player.
This caused the referee to finish the game with the final two minutes having not been played.
Overall this was a tough game for Ilkley but one from which lessons can be learned for the forthcoming season.
Coming up, Town travel to Otley on Saturday, before hosting Bury in the opening day of the NWCFL season on the 31st July.