On a chilly afternoon at Crilly Park, Ilkley Town AFC lost 2-0 to an organised Atherton LR side. The Baht'atters trailed by two goals at the interval before dominating the second half, but were unable to mount a comeback, writes Matthew Lambe.
The Baht'atters edged the opening quarter of an hour, with Alfie Dean's marauding runs causing issues for the LR defence.
However, it was LR who were to take the lead. A through ball reached Chad Whyte, and the Atherton target man found the bottom corner with a low finish.
For the following 20 minutes, Ilkley and Atherton alike struggled to find an opening as both sets of defenders were able to shut out the opposition forwards. Consequently, the remainder of the first half was played in the middle third, meaning chances were at a premium.
Nevertheless, Sam Dexter's side created a couple of opportunities on the stroke of half time; Tom Smith was agonisingly close to converting Ben Clarkson's driven cross, whilst Jack Lane fired over after great work from Dean.
30 seconds before the referee blew for half time, Atherton scored on a counter attack. Danny Warburton scored with a near post strike from close range, giving the hosts a two-goal cushion at the break.
Only minutes into the second half, the game turned sour as the referee was forced to book the Atherton manager for continuous abuse towards himself and the linesman.
Both Kevin Gonzalez and Shaban Mehmeti were brought on early into the second half, and both almost made an instant impact. Gonzalez volleyed over from close range, whilst Mehmeti used a burst of pace to beat three defenders with ease.
Town continued to pepper the hosts' box, but Atherton's defence withheld the pressure to record a clean sheet. On the occasions the defence was beaten, goalkeeper Connor Beard was on hand to save.
Approaching the final quarter, the game was plagued by several aggressive challenges. Tom Fleming was brought down and looked to be injured following a high tackle.
Despite Ilkley's dominance of possession during the second half, they were unable to snatch the three points away from the Lancastrian outfit.
Next up, Town host high-flying Pilkington at the MPM Stadium on Tuesday 21st February (8pm kickoff), then have a break ahead of facing Garstang away on Saturday 4th March.
(Photo Credit: Paul O’Brien)