Wetherby’s season got off to a losing start when newcomers Ilkley Town scored the only goal of the game to take the point’s home with them. It was a harsh result for Athletic, as both teams had cancelled each other out for a lot of the match, with Wetherby having the clearer of the chances overall.
With a much changed side from that of last season, Manager Mark Forster handed seven first team debuts and finished, result part, very happy with what he saw from his troops.
The match started in blazing sunshine and it was the visitors who had the first shot in anger when their number 10 picked up on a ball rolled across the box, fortunately, his shot was straight down James Webster’s throat and the keeper took collected with ease.
It took eight minutes for Wetherby to launch their first meaningful attack and a quick throw in by Joe Garside was picked up by Bobby Stevenson. Weaving his way past a defender, Stevenson slipped the ball across to Jonny Hadley, but just as he looked to have outmanoeuvred his marker, Ilkley’s left back came on his other side and knocked the ball clear.
Both teams were finding some space out wide and a Hadley cross was blocked by two Ilkley defenders before Wilson sent in a teasing cross that the visitor’s custodian had to punch clear with Stevenson breathing down his neck.
Ilkley countered and their tricky number 7 found some space on the edge of the area, whipping his shot to the far post, the ball kept on travelling and bounced out of play.
Garside and Josh Buckley were being kept busy, but they were both up to the challenge and Buckley produced several of his trademark blocks whilst Garside excelled in nicking the ball off the attacker’s foot at the last moment.
Wetherby had a very strong penalty shout turned down in the 22nd minute when Josh Wilson appeared to have had his heels clipped as he looked to make contact with Garside’s cross. Wetherby looked at Mr O’Donnell, but the official waved away the protests. To add insult to injury, the referee awarded Ilkley a goal-kick despite the fact that a defender had put the ball behind!
The offside flag came to Ilkley’s rescue when Stevenson arrived behind Richard Metcalfe and headed the ball across goal, however the skipper had made his run too early and the linesman duly flagged to stop the play.
Webster showed good agility as Ilkley’s number 4 had found some space in area, despite hitting the ball well, Webster dived to his left and pushed the ball round the post.
Wetherby had the ball in the back of the net in the 36th minute when Metcalfe latched onto Wilson’s flick, but again the linesman had raised his flag and the goal was ruled out.
Ilkley were proving to be very competent on the counter and a cleverly worked move down the centre opened up Wetherby, until Buckley timed his tackle to perfection to clear the ball.
John Tehrani, who was having a great game in the centre of the park came close to opening the scoring when he burst into the area, shrugging off his man, he managed to get his shot away, but, not for the first time, the ball was blocked on route to the goal.
The visitors finished the half on the attack and it was a strong half volley by number 7 that just flashed wide of the back post.
Wetherby started the second half the better of the two teams when Hadley and Joe Whiteley combined well to feed Stevenson. Drawing the foul, the Tangerines won a free-kick just outside the area, but the keeper was quickly off his line again to punch clear under pressure.
Straight away Wetherby attacked again and as Metcalfe and his marker came together, the Ilkley man proved to be stronger of the pair and took the ball to safety.
Metcalfe nearly opened the scoring in the 54th minute when Kirk battled well in midfield, releasing the striker down the middle. With the keeper and a defender closing him down, Metcalfe got his shot away, but agonising, the ball went the wrong side of the post.
Ilkley were proving to be strong in defence and they needed to be when Stevenson produced a reverse pass to release Kirk. Striding into the area, Kirk looked to deliver his cross, but a defender closed him down well and in the end managed to clear.
The only goal came in the 60th minute and it seemed to have a touch of the fortunate about is as the original shot was scuffed, but still found its way through the backline to an Ilkley player. Despite shouts for offside, the game continued and the Ilkley forward took the ball round Webster and finished. Wetherby were incensed with the decision, but the goal stood and the visitors had the lead.
Wetherby introduced their first sub five minutes later when Ross White entered the pitch for Stevenson.
Ilkley forced a couple of corners as they looked to extend their lead. Both times however, their deliveries only found an orange head and Wetherby managed to clear the ball.
Tehrani’s persistence set up two excellent chances for Wetherby when the ball slammed into his chest as he harried the Ilkley defender. The ball looped into Whiteley’s path and as he set himself to shoot, the keeper manged to get his foot to it deflecting it into Hadley’s path, as he tried to set himself, he could only shoot just over with two defenders lunging at him.
Wetherby were now having the better of the play and Wilson out jumped everyone to reach Metcalfe’s cross, however his header flew over the bar, but did leave the Ilkley custodian berating his defence.
With quarter of an hour remaining, Sam Straker came on for Metcalfe with Hadley moving into the striker’s position.
It was Tehrani who came to Wetherby’s rescue with a great sliding tackle that took the ball from the attacker’s foot and back to Webster. Had he missed, Wetherby would have been in trouble.
Wetherby made their final change on 84 minutes when Kirk, who was suffering from cramp, was replaced by Tom Frost.
The hosts were sniffing around the box, but despite good play, couldn’t create a clear chance and it was a frustrated Wetherby that left the pitch following the final whistle.
Report by Pete Arnett
Wetherby Man Of The Match. (Chosen by Press Officer Pete Arnett): Result aside, Wetherby put in a great shift, especially with so many debutants. There were great performances all over the pitch but this one belongs to John Tehrani. He broke up play and was a general bulldog in midfield. His tenacity led to several chances for Wetherby and on another day, would have scored with a fierce shot that led to a game of pinball in the Ilkley area!