Birkenhead Park 27 Ilkley 33

WHAT a splendid, hospitable place for Ilkley to kick-start some life back into their season, though the loyal supporters who made the trip across the Pennines had to endure some uncomfortable moments in a high-scoring North Premier League match.

As the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece approaches, here it was Rhys Morgan adopting the role of Dr Frankenstein, as he patched together a team showing no fewer than eight changes from the previous week’s selected squad.

Such was the paucity of available players, that no one would have been surprised if Boris Karloff had appeared at Number Eight – however, a boltless JH Johnson performed admirably instead.

Ilkley opened the scoring when newcomer Pat Atkinson kicked his side close to the home line from a penalty

Luke Spauls’ throw found Adam Newman and a slick interchange between the second-row and Ollie Holtham put Max McKay over for a try which Charles Ramsey converted.

Ilkley dealt well with the kick-off and a kick through rolled agonisingly over the dead-ball line with Johnson in hot pursuit.

A penalty apiece followed on quickly. First, Park’s Dave Hall was on target from 30 metres when Ilkley offended at a ruck and then Ramsay nailed his second kick, when Park prevented release in the tackle.

Park’s pack caused Ilkley problems from the restart and as the penalties went in the home side’s favour, it seemed a score was inevitable.

A clearance kick after some sterling defence found Park winger Adam Wellington rather than touch and after a succession of close encounters, hooker Stu Brown touched down.

Having lost one line-out in a good position, Ilkley made no mistake on the second occasion.

Holtham took a great ball and linked with Spauls who made ground before the ball reached Tom Milner who cut in from the right wing to take a pass from Johnson and score. Ramsay's conversion extended the lead to 17-8.

Johnson left the field shortly after and the scrum suffered, conceding a penalty.

Some sterling defence repulsed an attack or two but eventually the pressure told – Nathan Smith saw yellow and from the resulting scrum, Park’s number eight Dave Ibbotson scored from the scrum.

Ilkley started the second half well and started to ask a lot of questions of their opponents.

The pressure soon told and after some good work by Aaron Magee, Ramsay slotted another penalty to make it 20-13.

Further progress was denied when Atkinson kicked overcooked a penalty for touch, but Park's clearance went out on the full.

Another great pick up by Holtham from the line-out saw him pass to Ben Magee who created the chance for Blake Morgan to scamper over for Ilkley’s third try. Ramsay kept up his 100 per cent record with the kick.

Well on top now, Ilkley earned and kicked another penalty to make it 30-13 with 20 minutes to go.

Park’s desperation galvanised them into action and a penalty try plus a yellow card for Spouls followed quickly.

Another jolt of the good Doctor’s electricity was required, duly delivered and some smart interplay eventually earning the penalty for not releasing the tackler. Ramsay’s metronomic boot made it 33-20.

Those of a nervous disposition should now have left the theatre. A penalty kick to the corner by Hall gave Park the perfect opportunity for another catch and drive.

Head coach Smith was sent off for a second yellow car offence before Paul Hellier emerged from a melee to score his side's bonus-point try.

Hall’s conversion meant Ilkley had some defending to do.

And defend they did with less than the full fifteen playing out time with something approaching control. Mr Taylor’s watch-brand should be made compulsory for his society as no-side was blown with just 90 seconds of injury-time played.

So not the prettiest of matches, but who cares – at least in the Ilkley camp ? A very, very decent performance from what amounted to a scratch side and all in all, the correct result for both sides, Park deserving their two points.