Ilkley Town 1 Hunslet FC 2
Ilkley Town brought to a close a season that demonstrated progress with a battling performance against the WEst Yorkshire League Division One champions-elect.
The Leeds side needed victory to seal the League title as well as promotion, and showed strength of character to eek out the three points with two second-half goals after Ilkley had taken the lead.
With some players follow- ing Bradford City’s fortunes at Wembley and others unavailable due to injury, Town faced a daunting challenge but matched the visitors for commitment and endeavour in the opening 20 minutes.
The Ilkley back four looked relatively solid supported by ‘keeper Peter Crooks who made a fine reaction save when a shot by Parker was deflected in the penalty-area.
Beyond that save, Crook gathered a lot of direct through balls from Hunslet as Ilkley pressed forwards with Damian Smith causing particular problems drifting in from the left.
An Ilkley weakness all season has been an apparent lack of real physical determination allied to the precision of the final pass in and around the attacking penalty-area.
This surfaced again on Saturday as six times Ilkley players got behind the Hunslet defence yet failed to find a team-mate or else didn’t make runs across the front of defenders, preferr- ing to wait to see if the ball was missed.
Three corners were cleared without challenge and chances to shoot were spurned as the home side outplayed Hunslet for the final 20 minutes of the first-half.
The breakthrough came when Carr blocked Phil Thommesen’s shot with his hand after being set-up by Smith.
Thommesen drilled the penalty past Wood and Ilkley had a second appeal turned down after a jinking run by Smith ended with another parry by an outfield player.
Thommesen blazed a free-kick over the bar and Adam Fowler’s deep cross almost found Adam Davey at the far-post as Hunslet hung-on until half-time.
The second-half showed the character and fitness of the visitors as Ilkley found it difficult to keep possession in the attacking third of the pitch.
Hunslet’s twin strikers also began to get the better of Andy Bloom and Darren Munday.
Nevertheless, Hunslet failed to create oppor- tunities from open play in a very competitive game and equalised from a set-piece on the hour when Westcarr powered a header past Crook after poor marking at a corner.
This galvanised the visitors who renewed their efforts to claim victory and the championship.
The crucial goal duly came ten minutes later when more slack marking from a long clearance allowed Savory to fire a shot across goal and Chadwick stole inside Dave Hancock and scuffed a shot past the diving Crook.
Ilkley responded well and Davey combined well with Ross Hutchison to race beyond the defence and square the ball to Tom Rennolds who failed to make contact.
Ross Hutchison’s dipping volley drifted wide and Wood punched clear from a corner as Ilkley tried to find an equaliser.
This final game demon- strated to the Ilkley players the physical demands of playing at a higher level that must support the good team organisation and movement that has been shown during the season.
There is work to be done in the close season.