In their first competitive game since January, Ilkley Town AFC overcame a spirited Pool AFC side 3-2 thanks to goals from Matt Whitehead, Tom Fleming and Joe Chilaka, writes Matthew Lambe.
The hosts nearly opened the scoring five minutes in, when Fleming headed over from close range following a cushioned header from Darren Munday.
Only moments later, Chilaka showed great skill to weave his way to the byline before firing a low cross towards Richard Bull. The captain’s first-time effort thumped against the post and back into open play.
In the 15th minute, Whitehead produced a brilliant solo goal to give the Baht’atters the advantage. He dispossessed the visitors full-back before sprinting down the wing and blasting a near post shot, which the keeper could only palm into the net.
Keen to add a second in quick succession, Ilkley continued to press forward. Fleming’s lob over the keeper ricocheted off the crossbar, whilst Chilaka’s rebound was cleared off the line.
Pool were beginning to create chances of their own, and were denied a potential penalty for handball, and shortly after their forward volleyed narrowly wide.
On the stroke of half time, Simon Armstrong’s side doubled their lead, courtesy of Fleming. He marauded into the box and cut inside of the defence, before slotting into the bottom left corner beyond the keeper’s reach.
In the second half, the Baht’atters continued to attack, with Alfie Heaton defeating the offside trap and laying the ball off to Harry Brown. His close-range effort destined for the top corner was brilliantly saved and pushed out for a corner.
The visitors clawed a goal back, ensuring a dramatic finish to the game. Their forward broke the offside trap, and guided the ball around Adam Montague Millar.
Barely 10 minutes later, Pool were awarded a penalty and a chance to equalise. Montague Millar almost parried away the penalty, but it was just beyond his reach.
Pool’s keeper was called into action once again, and was forced to produce a quick-reflex save to deny Munday’s volley from rippling the back of the net.
With only 15 minutes to go, Chilaka restored the lead with a stunning strike towards the top corner. He received possession on the edge of the box, before turning and floating his effort into the top corner, skimming the crossbar along the way.
Whitehead almost doubled his tally in the final few minutes with a long-range attempt, but it was denied at the near post by the keeper; whilst Macauley Smith created a chance for Tom Dover, whose shot was narrowly over the bar.
This was the final action of the match, ensuring Ilkley clung onto a 3-2 victory.
The Baht’atters host Headingley in another mid-season friendly next, before the following weekend sees the return of the league format.