WHARFEDALE FA CUP Ilkley Town 2 Otley Town 1

ILKLEY Town lifted the Wharfedale FA Challenge Cup for the third time in four seasons with victory at Nethermoor on Monday.

They had to come from a goal down at half-time to pull off their latest success against an Otley Town side looking to salvage something from a season that has seen them get relegated from the West Yorkshire League Premier Division.

The second half turnaround was all the more impressive given the early storm which Ilkley had to weather against an Otley side that sprinted out of the traps and threatened to put the game beyond their opponents within the opening 20 minutes.

Looking to press home their physical advantage from set pieces, Otley struck the frame of the goal with a header from Scott Firth after 15 minutes and promptly went one better moments later when Ilkley failed to deal with a corner and the loose ball was gleefully driven past goalkeeper James Hirst from close range by Joe Currie to open the scoring.

“We were put under a lot of pressure early on but kept trying to play football and in the end that paid dividends,” said Ilkley manager Simon Armstrong.

Otley went on to squander two gilt-edged chances to double their early advantage. Firth fired a shot over the bar when he should have hit the target, while Connor Wilson scufffed his shot when well placed.

With Hirst also making a good save from a driven free kick, Ilkley were relieved to survive unscathed.

Once they had recovered from the shock of this onslaught, Ilkley grew into the game and were carrying the greater threat as half-time approached.

Seventeen-year-old full back James Turland found himself in the opposing penalty area after a trademark marauding run but could only scoop his finish narrowly over, while midfielders Will Giles and James Wilson tested the Otley goalkeeper with strikes from range. A half-time adjustment saw Ilkley’s management team of Armstrong and Greg Beswick look to get more support to lone frontman Danny Henderson, bringing on pacy youngster Alex Macpherson to provide a threat in behind Otley’s stout defensive line.

The switch yielded immediate benefits as their side started to enjoy more success in the final third, a succession of testing deliveries into the penalty area causing problems for their opponents and creating a series of chances, the best of which was lifted over the bar by the right foot of left winger Jack Murray.

The introduction of substitute Matt Tollefson with 30 minutes remaining proved a pivotal moment. Not long after defender Ben Dexter had gone close with an angled drive from the right hand corner of the penalty area, Tollefson won possession deep in Ilkley territory and threaded a delightful through ball in behind a high Otley back four.

Macpherson sped onto the pass and caressed the ball beyond the onrushing goalkeeper for the equaliser.

By now Tollefson, Giles, and captain Danny Bott were dominating the middle of the park as Otley faded.

As the clock wound down it fell to Ilkley’s third substitute, James Mackie, to secure the trophy for his side.

A purposeful run down the left flank ended with the winger cutting inside and unleashing a shot from 25 yards which took a faint nick and dipped viciously into the net over the unfortunate goalkeeper.

It was left to man-of-the match Dexter and central defensive partner Darren Munday to repel a few final hopeful long balls as Otley struggled in vain for a response.