Ilkley Town captain Danny Bott has praised new players, their former professional and the club’s own ambition as contributing factors to their incredible start to the season.
They came back from 2-1 down to earn a draw at Field, and sit just four points back on leaders Beeston St Anthony’s, who beat Shelley 4-0.
Creative midfielder Bott says his side are riding the crest of a wave that has seen them rise to second in the table with seven wins from their 11 opening games.
Last season saw them finish 12th after a flirtation with the relegation spots, but despite this, Bott isn’t at all surprised by Ilkley’s strong start.
“We’ve got a few good new players in, and we’ve got some lads back from uni, which has helped,” he said. “We’ve done well and I wouldn’t say I’m surprised at how we’re doing because recruitment was so good and we had a really good pre-season.
“We had a meeting at the start of the season and agreed that the ambition was to finish in the top eight and win the District Cup, which is our main aim.”
The club have taken advantage of manager Simon Armstrong’s links with Leeds University to sign a handful of players, including influential centre-back Josh O’Hanlon.
At the other end of the pitch, former Otley Town and Field forward Toby Harris has made an impression on Bott along with former professional Lee Spires, who played for several years in Spain’s lower leagues.
“Toby is good to have and gives us something we haven’t had before,” said Bott. “He runs his socks off and gets stuck in.
“Spiresy has obviously been great. He played the end of last year and is our assistant manager now, which has made a big difference, changing little things like the warm-up and the cool-down. He’s also the Under-21s manager, so he’s great for the club.”
The build of a state of the art 3G pitch and new clubhouse, says Bott, has also given the players huge impetus.
“In five or six weeks, we should be able to get on it. The 3G makes it more of a football club and has given everyone a really good buzz about the place. We’ve been able to sign players because of it. We’ve just got to enjoy ourselves now and keep our momentum going.”
A place further behind Ilkley and breathing down their necks are champions Carlton Athletic, who destroyed a hapless Pool side by scoring eight unanswered goals. Anees Younis bagged a hat-trick for last season’s dominant force, and there were doubles for Liam Moore and free-scoring front man Scott Hargreaves.
Scott Burns also scored as Mark Pitts’s side continued their route back to form after a slow start to the season that saw them suffer shock defeats to Knaresborough Town and Headingley.
Carlton’s win lifted them into third courtesy of Leeds City’s slip at Huddersfield Amateur, where they went down 3-2. They lost a point on Knaresborough, who roared back from a two-goal half-time deficit against Horbury to claim a point thanks to goals from Steven Bromley and Fraser Lancaster. That was despite the antics of Sam Cook, who saw red for two yellow-card offences.
Robin Hood Athletic lost 4-2 to Sherburn White Rose and bottom side Hall Green earned their fifth point of the term after a 1-1 draw with Hunslet.