The FA Trophy hasn’t been a kind tournament to Ilkeston FC since the club was formed and once again they fell at the first hurdle in Cambridgeshire on Saturday.
Hosts St Neots overcame a half-time deficit to ultimately claim a place in the second qualifying round, Nathan Frater’s fine winner 11 minutes from time the difference between the sides.
That all came after the Robins had arrived at the ground just 32 minutes before kick-off following traffic problems en route, hardly ideal preparation for an important game.
Indeed, that late arrival seemed to have a negative effect early on as the hosts opened far the stronger side.
Ben Ford’s long range effort was just too high on three minutes and Jordan Smith was called upon moments later to divert Frater’s powerful drive over the top.
The visitors then slowly started to arrive in the game with Callum Chettle and James Reid at the heart of most of what they created.
Che Adams was never far away either and he was unlucky not to score in a scramble on 21 minutes which saw a Rob Duffy shot blocked and Adams’ poke goalwards cleared off the line.
Lewis Hilliard was St Neots’ biggest threat and he twice drove low at Smith, but it would be the Robins who would open the scoring on 33 minutes.
It owed much to Reid who opened things up superbly in midfield before threading a ball through to Adams and the youngster’s low shot squeezed under veteran keeper Paul Bastock and into the net.
Smith had to be called upon again right on half-time as Gavin Hoyte’s header down from a corner was brilliantly pushed away by the young keeper.
Ilkeston began the second-half well and Adams was unlucky to see a lob tipped onto the bar by Bastock early on.
But the home side got level on 59 minutes and it was their dangerman Hilliard who got the goal, turning in too much space in the penalty area and finishing well into the far corner.
Half chances followed with Ford heading wide and then Bastock tipping past the post after a defender had flicked on a Reid free-kick, before the hosts got the lead on 79 minutes.
Frater turned well 40 yards out to take Joe Maguire out of the game before running on and hitting a fine low shot into the corner of the net.
Drew Roberts then missed a good chance to make it three when he headed Hilliard’s cross wide at the back post, while Adams nearly added another champagne moment to his short career with a good run and then shot that fizzed just past the far post with two minutes of normal time remaining.
That would be that as the hosts held on to progress through, the Robins left to ponder throwing away a precious half-time advantage.
Ilkeston manager Kevin Wilson said after the game:
“It’s disappointing because we’ve conceded two poor goals again and it’s seen us knocked out of this tournament at the first hurdle.
“Getting here late wasn’t ideal but we settled and then got in front so we can have no excuses. We weren’t clinical enough in the penalty area.
“We’ve a free week now to take stock and recharge the batteries ahead of the Frickley game, which we know will be a tough challenge.”
St Neots: 1 Paul Bastock, 2 Max York, 3 Josh Bickerstaff, 4 Ben Ford (Lorenzo Ferrari 76), 5 Dave Deeney, 6 Gavin Hoyte, 7 Jay Davies, 8 Matt Spring, 9 Nathan Frater, 10 Drew Roberts, 11 Lewis Hilliard
Subs not used: Dean Cracknell, Ben Farrell, Ed Adjei, Chris Dillon
Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith, 2 James Reid (Tyrell Waite 85), 3 Kieran Wallace, 4 Joe Burgess, 5 Joe Maguire, 6 Jack Lane, 7 David Morgan (Harry Randall 89), 8 Callum Chettle, 9 Rob Duffy, 10 Ashley Hunter (Mike Williams 69), 11 Che Adams
Subs not used: Matt Baker, Danny Gordon
Ref: Adrian Gillett
Star Robin: Jordan Smith
Report by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)
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