Ilkley Town 3 Rawdon Old Boys 1
Ilkley Town progressed to the final to the Wharfedale Challenge Cup with a hard-fought victory over a determined Rawdon Old Boys side that battled to the final whistle.
In a scrappy game that never really got going due to frequent stoppages, some of which could have been avoided, the game was settled by a series of mistakes with Ilkley the ultimate beneficiaries.
In front of a crowd over 150 at Ben Rhydding, Ilkley Town made a sprightly start and after seven minutes Ross Hutchison’s header from Danny Henderson’s cross hit the bar and Phil Thommesen saw his header from the rebound deflected over the bar by a Rawdon defender.
The Rawdon attacks were focused on Leslie’s pace chasing after long passes but Ilkley’s skipper Darren Mun- day was a match for speed and the Rawdon forward found it increasingly difficult to get any joy out of Munday and his centre-back partner Ben Dexter.
Nevertheless, it was Leslie who surprised Ilkley after 20 minutes when his relatively tame low shot from 25 yards seemed to be covered by Ilkley’s James Hirst but the ‘keeper slipped as he dived and allowed the ball to slide through his hands and trickle into the net.
With Nightingale showing some nice touches in midfield Rawdon enjoyed a better spell of possession as Ilkley dealt with shock of going behind. Needing to reply swiftly, it took Ilkley ten minutes to equalise when Thommesen headed Henderson’s corner past Mitchell at the near-post.
The Ilkley player should have given the home side the lead after 40 minutes when Adam Davey wriggled free on the by-line and his low cross to Thommesen was scooped over the bar from 12 yards.
Enjoying more possession but finding it difficult to penetrate a robust Rawdon defence, the Ilkley players were reminded to pass and move at a quicker tempo during the half-time break and this had an impact in the opening exchanges of the second-half as Rawdon found it difficult to gain possession and attack with any sus- tained momentum.
The breakthrough for Ilkley came after 65 minutes when Henderson raced onto Sam Dexter’s through ball and the Ilkley player tangled with two Rawdon defenders in the penalty-area.
To the surprise of many, the referee awarded a penalty, which Hutchison tucked confidently past Mitchell.
The goal settled Ilkley who started to maintain better possession going forward and began to dominate in midfield where James Winward and Sam Dexter gradually got the better of Nightingale and Whitfield.
Another stroke of fortune gifted Ilkley the third goal after 80 minutes when Mitchell saved at the feet of Thommesen only to inextric- ably fumble the ball allowing Thommesen to push it into an unguarded net.
It was an unfortunate mistake but the balance of play during the game was in Ilkley’s favour and although the goals were hardly cast from a classical composition the home side merited the victory.
Ilkley can look forward to a second Wharefdale Cup final in three seasons with Otley Rovers as their opponents after their 2-1 victory over Baildon Trinity Athletic.