Ilkley Town v Penrith, Saturday 11th September 2021, 3pm

Jen and I had to go down to the Yorkshire Dales to collect a fireplace and having arranged to pick it up after lunch on a Saturday I was understandably keen to find a nearby game on the way back to Teesside. As luck would have it, Ilkley Town were at home to Penrith in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Vase. This is Ilkley’s first season in the tenth tier North West Counties Division One and therefore also the first time that they have been eligible for the competition.

Ilkley play at the Ben Rydding Sports Club. It looks like a new facility, although there are hockey pitches alongside the football one. It was six quid in and another two for a programme. There were a couple of food kiosks just inside the entrance, one of which was opening for the first time. I had a chip butty, although there wasn’t any butter on it. The chips were ok though having been freshly cooked to order in a fryer that held a maximum of two portions. If attendances or appetites ever start to rise then they might be in a bit of trouble.

There weren’t any seats, which is unusual at tier ten, although maybe the North West Counties League either doesn’t require them or allows a period of grace after promotion. I’m ok with that. The pitch was 4G, with the addition of some blue markings for smaller scale games across the pitch. I’m ok with that too. The crowd was announced at one hundred and twenty one which is respectable at this level.

Ilkley were in a Wimbledon style dark blue kit with ninth tier Northern League opponents Penrith in a kind of knock-off Arsenal strip. The home side were missing their management team who were all at an unfortunately scheduled September wedding and so their under 21 gaffers were occupying the dugout.

One of the Penrith centre-backs stood out as a consequence of being bigger, slower and swearier than everyone else on the pitch. However, he missed nothing in the air and his positional awareness was good enough that any lack of pace didn’t matter. Penrith missed a few early chances and he got more frustrated with every chance that went begging.

Ilkley went a goal up after twenty-five minutes. It looked offside to me but as the Penrith defence didn’t complain too much I suspect that it might well have been the correct decision to allow it. The lead lasted until a few minutes before the interval when Penrith equalized from a disputed free-kick that was swept into the corner from the edge of the box.

In the second half we moved behind one of the goals which put us at the wrong end for the winner that was curled beyond the Ilkley keeper. There was some pressure at the end from Ilkley and a lot of added time after a Penrith defender picked up what looked like a serious injury but the Northern League side hung on for the victory and a place in the next round.

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