Steeton’s clash with Ilkley is brilliant for local football – Mason

North West Counties West League First Division North 

Steeton manager Roy Mason

Roy Mason says the clash between Ilkley Town and Steeton highlights the meteoric rise both clubs have enjoyed in recent years. 

Mason takes his Steeton side across West Yorkshire to play Simon Armstrong’s Ilkley tonight at the Ben Rhydding Sports Club for the first competitive fixture between the clubs.

A few hundred people could very easily attend the contest and Mason believes it will chart just how far Ilkley and Steeton have come.

“It should be a great occasion and I’m really looking forward to it,” Mason told Non League Yorkshire.

“It is not unfair to say that both clubs played in front of one man and his dog previously (in grassroots).

“You’re hoping that the floating spectators will come and watch you in midweek.

“From what I’m hearing we’re going to be taking a few travelling supporters over.

“There’s a bit of interest in the game and hopefully there will be a good crowd.

“For us to be both competing at this level is a testament to all the work that the people behind the scenes have put in and the foresight both clubs have had to push themselves onto this level.

“People will be interested in coming to watch it.

“I think people are genuinely interested in clubs who are doings things the right way and trying to progress.

“Both clubs have come from a low base and are trying to compete with the bigger clubs like Bury.

“It is a bit of a fairytale story for both teams.”

Steeton arrived on the Non League scene in 2018 from the West Riding County Amateur while Ilkley made the leap from the West Yorkshire League in the summer.

The pair have increased the number of semi-pro teams in that part of West Yorkshire and Mason says everyone benefits.

“It is fantastic for local football,” he said.

“You’re right in saying we have been up there for longer but in reality we have only played one full season at this level.

“Even though it is our fourth season, we have only completed one.

“We are still relatively new to Non League Football and I’ve known Simon a long time and we have only played Ilkley in pre-season when we were West Riding County Amateur and they were West Yorkshire League.

“We have always followed each other fortunes and Simon has put his heart and soul into the club and he’s been the driving force to get them to this level.

“I like to see all the local clubs progressing and for us to have another local derby in the North West Counties is fantastic.

“I have always looked at Ilkley as a town that should have a Non League Football team.

“I hope it is the first of many (competitive) fixtures.

“When you look at our crowds this season, our biggest was against Campion which is a local derby.

“It will be good, not just from a rivalry perspective, but also financial perspective.

“The more local games the better.

“With all due respect to Garstang, Cleator Moor, you’re never going to attract the floating spectators to those games (because of the distance).

“Playing the likes of Campion, Golcar and Ilkley, teams in and around you, you will attract the locals because there is that local interest to it.

“It is also good for local football around here because it gives footballers more opportunities because the more semi-pro clubs, the more there is to aspire to.”

Action from Steeton’s win over Campion on Bank Holiday Monday in August

When Mason last spoke to Non League Yorkshire in August, Steeton had just won their first league game of the campaign – the 2-1 defeat of Campion.

They lost the following three (one in the FA Vase) but responded with three consecutive victories until losing to Atherton LR on Saturday.

In the last seven fixtures, Steeton have scored an incredible 26 goals, conceding 21 – drawing similarities with Kevin Keegan’s first spell as manager at Newcastle United.

“We had three wins on the bounce until Saturday,” he said.

“We changed the formation around and tried a few things and it worked for us.

“The emphasis has been on scoring goals and it is a simple philosophy ‘score more goals than the opposition’.

“Equally we’re not charging much money and we’re in the business of entertaining people.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve gone down the Kevin Keegan route.

“You have to build a formation around the players you have got as opposed to having a formation and moulding the players into that.

“Where our strengths lie are with our forward players.

“We looked at a system where we could get the ball into dangerous areas and the players we have got in the final third have been doing the business.

“We have been scoring goals for fun.”

Steeton remain lowly in the table in 14th with 15 points but they are well above the relegation zone and only nine points from the top five.

Mason just hopes his men can push on.

“I think it is wide open (at the top) this season,” he said.

“Bury look like the team who might break away but apart from that anyone can beat anyone on their day.

“We want to finish as high as we can but we don’t want to make any bold predictions.

“We had a bit of a set-back on Saturday at Atherton but we’re looking at it now and the teams above us and seeing how we can close the gap.

“If we were to finish in the top ten, that would represent the highest league finish in our history.

“That’s what we have got to aim for, a top ten finish and see if we could finish a little further beyond that.”

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