Ilkley Town AFC denied an in-form Darwen FC side of a sixth win in seven games, but the Baht’atters may feel hard done by to leave the MPM Stadium with only a point. A competitive first half saw no goals, but the second 45 was another matter; George Gomersall looked to have secured the win, but a late equaliser from the visitors’ talisman saw the points shared, writes Matthew Lambe.
With both sides being in-form – as well as a history of high scoring matches between the two – it was no surprise the opening period witnessed a plethora of chances. Joe Edmonds burst down the wing before seeing his effort ripple the side netting, whilst the Salmoners’ Leon Creech was denied by Matt Swift’s excellent block.
The match continued to offer opportunities, with both Ilkley and Darwen having goals ruled out within a five minute window. Sam Dexter’s side had the ball in the back of the net before the linesman overturned the goal, then the other linesman disallowed Ryan Steele’s chip for offside.
Kevin Gonzalez nearly opened the scoring in a bizarre fashion, in a moment Darwen’s keeper Louis Hood will want to forget. Hood waited for a long ball to bounce into the box so he could handle it , but misjudged it’s trajectory allowing Gonzalez to get there first. Fortunately for the ex-Accrington Stanley shotstopper, he recovered just in time.
Matt Swift made another vital block defensively – this time chesting away a goal-bound effort, before receiving a yellow card a couple of minutes later for a trip on an oncoming attacker.
Despite the relentless action at both ends, the game was goalless at the break.
Sam Dexter’s team talk must’ve invigorated the Baht’atters, as they began the half firmly on the front foot. Gonzalez was incredibly unlucky not to score, heading onto the crossbar from Gomersall’s delivery before dragging his strike narrowly wide after being set up by Harry Brown.
Around the hour mark, the hosts’ sustained pressure paid dividends. George Gomersall cut inside of his defender and dribbled to the edge of the box, before finding the bottom corner with an inch-perfect curled finish.
In the subsequent attack, the Salmoners’ Samuel Holt received a yellow card for violent conduct – and could’ve easily been given his marching orders, grabbing Gonzalez by the neck and thrusting him to the ground.
The Baht’atters were through on goal again, but a fine save from Hood at close range prevented a second for the hosts.
At the other end, Creech levelled the scoring with only 10 minutes remaining. Charlie Bell slipped on his way to gather the ball, allowing the striker to lob over Bell to spark a tense final period.
The referee was forced to brandish several yellow cards as the game turned ugly in the closing stages, with Darwen looking to hold on and Ilkley searching for a late winner.
Nevertheless, the winning goal proved to be elusive, leaving the points to be shared between Ilkley and Darwen.
The horrendous conditions of January caused most games to be postponed, meaning Town have fixtures coming thick and fast in February – playing on a Tuesday and Saturday for consecutive weeks. Ilkley travel to high-flying Euxton Villa on Tuesday 7th February, then host Bacup Borough at the MPM Stadium on Saturday 11th February.