Ilkley Frustrated in Festive Fixture

An entertaining yet frustrating fixture for fans left Ilkley with a point against Nelson FC, in a game where the Baht’atters will no doubt rue missed chances.

The visitors’ Luke Hepple put his side ahead with a fine finish, before Sam Dexter’s side launched a comeback with goals from Blake Wood and Kevin Gonzalez; however, the Lancastrians equalised in the 87th minute to share the spoils, writes Matthew Lambe.

The opening quarter of an hour proved to be a cagey encounter, largely due to the wind making Ilkley’s passes overhit.

A moment of quality from Gonzalez gave life to the otherwise disjointed opening. After finding space, his long-range curling effort almost found the top corner, whistling just past the post.

Only minutes later, the Admirals took the lead through Hepple. Nelson built from the back to find Hepple around the penalty spot; the midfielder dinked the ball with his first touch to beat the defender, before firing into the roof of the net.

This was the spark Ilkley needed and thus began playing with more urgency and bagged an equaliser soon after conceding. Nelson’s Jordan Gidley flapped at a cross, allowing Wood to bundle the ball over the line while under pressure. 

The Baht’atters almost added a second in quick succession with a crisp move. Alfie Dean’s diagonal ball found Gonzalez, who immediately pulled back to Harry Brown. The skipper’s powerful attempt was only denied by a well-timed defensive block.

At the opposing end, Nelson forward Jude Entwistle volleyed on target from the edge of the box, but Jordan Moorhouse was on hand to keep him at bay.

Consequently, the game was tied approaching half time.

In the second half, Sam Dexter’s side made an instant impact. Wood crossed low into Gonzalez, who made no mistake in steering Ilkley into the lead.

Ilkley full-back Ed Croft single-handedly prevented the Lancastrian side restoring their lead; after Entwistle had rounded Moorhouse, Croft headed the ball clear on the goal-line.

Following this, Town gained control and could’ve scored another. Wood nearly converted after a mazy run but he shot just over, while Gonzalez’s half volley was ruled marginally offside.

Matt Swift was unlucky not to score in spectacular style after volleying towards the top corner with his back to goal, but Gidley pulled off a one-handed save.

From the resulting corner, fellow centre-back Josh Parker saw his glancing header graze off the crossbar, agonisingly.

Moorhouse was called into action once again, this time diving low to prevent an effort from distance and to catch a chipped effort from a Nelson substitute.

With only a few minutes left to play, the Admirals drew level. Substitute Oliver Hodgson reacted quickest to pounce on a set-piece and tucked the ball home to create a tense finale.

Despite opportunities neither side could find a winner, causing Ilkley and Nelson to leave the MPM Stadium with a point apiece. However, for the Baht’atters, it could be viewed as two points dropped rather than a point gained as a result of missed opportunities.

Nevertheless, Town still sit within touching distance of the playoffs. Next up, they host Bacup Borough on Saturday 13th January before travelling to Shelley on Saturday 20th January in a White Rose Derby.