In a game steeped with drama, a phenomenal performance from Ilkley Town AFC earned them a staggering 6-2 victory against high-fliers Golcar United at the MPM Stadium. Three goals either side of the interval – including a hat-trick from Kevin Gonzalez – ensured Sam Dexter’s side leapfrog Atherton LR and Daisy Hill out of the relegation zone. It wasn’t all pretty though, as both sides were reduced to 10 men before the final whistle, writes Matthew Lambe.
The Baht’atters opened the scoring within the first 10 minutes, courtesy of Kevin Gonzalez. He collected the ball around 30 yards out, then drove forward before unleashing an unstoppable effort that nestled in the bottom corner.
It wasn’t long before the hosts doubled their advantage; Josh Bowers made the most of a loose ball inside the box, and floated a volley through the crowded area beyond the reach of keeper Harry Stead.
However, fellow West Yorkshire outfit Golcar weren’t going down without a fight, and quickly responded with a goal. Ashley Flynn (top goalscorer of the league, with over 30 to his name) connected sweetly to a bouncing ball, and subsequently saw his effort fly into the top corner.
The Baht’atters retaliated immediately, littering the Golcar defence with chances. Matt Swift headed narrowly over from a corner, whilst a close range save from Stead denied Bowers of his brace.
Ilkley’s sustained pressure paid dividends though, as 35 minutes in Gonzalez won a penalty after being brought down by Joe Skarz, who received a straight red card for his last-man foul. Tom Smith maintained his flawless penalty record, calmly dispatching a precise penalty.
After the break, the visitors pinned Ilkley into their own box for a short spell, and forced a couple of spectacular saves out of Tim Edney. His fingertip save pushed a lob out for a corner, and from the resulting cross he dived down low to palm a goalbound header towards safety.
Following this period, Gonzalez doubled his tally to see him pass 20 goals on his maiden season in the North West Counties League: an undoubtedly incredible feat. Naturally, it was a goal to match the milestone. With only one defender left to beat – but a long distance from goal and out on the wing – he hooked an audacious first-time lob into the back of the net, with a back-pedalling Stead getting a hand but was unable to prevent the goal.
Shortly after, the Baht’atters added a fifth, with Bowers also bagging a brace. Gaining possession after a through ball was threaded into him, he found the near post with a powerful strike.
Flynn became the third man on the pitch to score a second, this time from the spot. His side won a penalty for a handball, and his penalty bounced off the post before rippling the net.
Gonzalez sparked wild celebrations at the MPM Stadium, as he inflicted a sixth goal against Golcar. His first attempt was stopped by Stead, but his rebound deceived him, completing his hat-trick in doing so.
To conclude the game on a sour note, Bowers received his marching orders after a controversial decision. He was felled then pushed by a Golcar midfielder, so Bowers responded by pushing him back, before Edney and Brown were on hand to calm the tensions. In the midst of this, the referee awarded Bowers a straight red, leaving Ilkley players and managers alike confused.
Despite this, it was still a remarkable performance from the Baht’atters, putting six goals past a title-challenging side who had previously lost only four games all season.
Moreover, this sensational result ensures Ilkley climb out of the drop and up to 15th, and massively improved goal difference should relegation to be decided this way.
Following on from this victory, Town play Garstang FC twice in three days; firstly at home in the league, before travelling to the Riverside to face them in the 2nd round of the First Division Cup.