Ilkley Town 3-4 Eccleshill United
In their first home game as a semi-professional side, Ilkley Town AFC played out an entertaining encounter against Eccleshill United. Despite eventually losing 4-3, the players can take credit, showing character to recover from a three goal deficit against a team playing in a higher league, writes Matthew Lambe.
Eccleshill immediately played with a high intensity, restricting opportunities for Ilkley and forcing early saves out of goalkeeper Mike Clifford. This included a quick-reflex save to parry the ball over the bar and a vital catch from a free kick.
In the 15th minute, Eccleshill opened the scoring through their centre-mid. He wriggled his way around the defence before slotting into the bottom left corner.
The visitors doubled their advantage a few minutes later, leaving the Baht’atters with a two-goal cushion to overcome. Eccleshill produced a nicely-worked passing move, culminating with their left winger finishing into the bottom corner from close range.
Determined to gain some momentum, Ilkley pressed forward and began to put the visitors under pressure. Macauley Smith danced through their defence before being brought down on the edge of the box, whilst Dan Gascoigne floated a low ball across the box which was almost prodded in for an own goal.
Despite this, United added a third on the stroke of half time. After winning a free kick on the edge of the box, their right back blasted his effort into the bottom corner beyond the keepers reach.
As part of early pre-season preparations, Simon Armstrong made 11 changes at half time to give the full squad opportunities and try new combinations
After the break, the fresh legs of the hosts turned the tide, with the Baht’atters enjoying more possession and chances. The first of these came through Harry Brown showing superb skill to weave out of the corner before playing a convincing low cross, where Joe Garside came close to converting.
Aaron Davis pulled a goal back for Ilkley, granting them a glimmer of hope for a comeback. He won possession on the halfway line, then darted towards the box whilst outpacing the defence, before curling his effort into the top corner.
The Baht’atters netted a second in quick succession courtesy of James Hudson, pulling the scoreline to within one. Kevin Gonzalez burst down the wing, whilst Hudson sprinted towards the box to receive a cross. Gonzalez’s cross was inch-perfect, allowing Hudson to glance his header into the bottom corner.
Only 10 minutes later, Nicc Hewitt levelled the scoring to bring the Baht’atters level. He found himself in the perfect place to receive Garside’s cross, and glanced his header beyond the reach of the keeper.
At the other end of the MPM Stadium, goalkeeper Callum Gladding was called into action. During a goalmouth scramble, he produced a fingertip save to push the ball onto the bar, keeping the score at 3-3 and maintaining his clean sheet.
In the 88th minute, Eccleshill restored their lead from a quick counter-attack. After winning the ball off the hosts, their centre-mid threaded a through ball into their substitute striker, who slotted home into the bottom corner.
Shortly afterwards, the referee blew for full time and despite Ilkley’s best efforts, they had fallen at the final hurdle to a resilient Eccleshill side. However, the Baht’atters can be pleased with the work out against stronger opposition as part of their preparations for the season ahead.
This result should give them great confidence for the upcoming season, which starts on the 31st July with an exciting home game against Bury AFC. Next up, they face Silsden on Tuesday evening at Silsden’s ground.