On a frosty evening at the MPM Stadium, Ilkley Town AFC overcame a disciplined Daisy Hill FC side to claim a resounding 2-0 victory. Goals from Kevin Gonzalez and McCauley Smith ensured the game was won by half time, then an excellent defensive performance in the second half gave the Baht’atters all three points, writes Matthew Lambe.
From the start, the hosts played possession-based football through the thirds, before weaving forwards to Gonzalez who fired an effort into the side netting. Only a few minutes later, he continued to cause problems for Daisy’s defence, with an almost identical shot flying into the side netting.
The Baht’atters continued to press forward, and Harry Brown nearly opened the scoring as he evaded a late challenge before aiming for the bottom corner, but keeper Morgan Newns was equal to it and pushed away his effort before Tom Smith could deflect the rebound home.
At the other end, the visitors looked threatening from a set-piece when a cross was whipped into Hensley Mills, who prodded the ball back across goal, and Dean Singleton’s resulting header was just over the bar.
In the 15th minute, Gonzalez gave his side an early lead, for his staggering 17th goal of the campaign. Captain Brown burst through the visitors defence before finding space for Gonzalez, who took the ball in his stride and deftly finished at the near post.
Baht’atters keeper Tim Edney preserved his clean sheet by producing a fine stop from a free kick, and collected the subsequent loose ball before an attacker could pounce.
To round off the first half, Ilkley doubled their advantage through a lovely team goal finished off by McCauley Smith. Following a lengthy spell of possession, George Pearson played forwards into the path of McCauley Smith, who cut inside before unleashing a long range strike into the bottom opposite corner beyond the reach of Newns.
Early in the second half, Daisy Hill pushed for an equaliser, coming close had it not been for the hosts defence shutting out most goalscoring opportunities. Matt Swift slid in at the perfect time to stop striker Connor Hughes from converting a one on one, whilst Edney got a strong palm to a goal-bound header.
On the attacking front, James Hudson nearly added a third directly from a cross. He beat his man on the byline before arching a cross that looped over the defence and keeper, but skimmed the crossbar before rebounding back into open play.
A miscommunication amongst the visitors defence in the final few minutes almost allowed Brown to seal the result with a third, with Newns scuffing an underhit back pass which fell into the feet of Brown. He selflessly squared the ball to Tom Smith, but his attempt whistled narrowly wide of the post.
This was the final action of the game, concluding a game where offence and defence alike worked hard and ensured a result for the Baht’atters, who now move into 14th in the league table – leapfrogging our last two opponents, South Liverpool and Daisy Hill thanks to a better goal difference - and more importantly, six points clear of the relegation zone.
Furthermore, Ilkley remain unbeaten in four games, having won three of those. During this streak, there has consistently been an impressive attendance at the MPM, with tonight seeing 128 brave the elements to see the Baht’atters victorious.
Next up, Town travel to St Helens FC on the 15th January, before hosting Chadderton FC a week later.
(Image showing lingering mist on kickoff)