GRANTHAM Town strike an injury-time winner to leave Robins in third spot.
Evo-Stik Division One South
GRANTHAM TOWN 2
Jamie McGhee 8
Ben Gathercole 90+2og
ILKESTON FC 1
Sam Duncum 14
by Mark Duffy
INJURY-TIME drama across two counties was the order of the day as the Robins let second place slip from their grasp at the last moment.
Their sole task for the afternoon was to collect a point from this match with the champions to secure runner-up spot, and if that failed then they were to hope Carlton Town didn’t score enough goals at home to Goole to overtake them.
And until around 5.40pm things looked fine - Sam Duncum’s equaliser having cancelled out Jamie McGhee’s early goal and the game easing towards a draw, while Carlton only led by one goal across the border.
Step forward Grantham sub Tony Battersby, a veteran of many a campaign whose injury-time strike rebounded back off a post before striking the unlucky Robins keeper Ben Gathercole on the heel and pinballing back into the net.
Add to that two late strikes by Carlton to bring goal difference level, and it was the number of goals accumulated all season that suddenly mattered - the Nottingham side’s progress to a century proving key in the end.
There hadn’t really been any sign drama of that nature was on its way, as a generally dull encounter was played out in front of a jovial crowd - at least a third of which was made up of travelling fans.
Grantham had the first real opening in the third minute when McGhee fed defender Sam Purcicoe who raced in on Gathercole but his shot was well pushed away by the Robins stopper.
But the hosts were to get it right on eight minutes and this time it was McGhee who did the damage as roles were reversed, Purcicoe threading a fine ball through the middle and the little winger beating Gathercole with a fine finish with the outside of his right foot.
Ilkeston were level on 14 and it was down to good work by Francis Green. He dispossessed a defender just inside Grantham’s half and broke forward before feeding the wide open Duncum who finished well first time with his weaker right foot.
McGhee was released again moments later but Gathercole did well to block his shot for a corner, before the game went into something of a lull with only a few lively challenges to keep people entertained.
James Reid nearly had Andrew Osei-Siribour in on goal four minutes before the break but keeper Rob Murray dashed out to block, and the half ended with the sides all square.
Osei-Siribour twice saw efforts go close early in the second-half, before sub Daryll Thomas nearly scored with his first touch just after the hour, linking well with Reid before curling in an effort which Murray did well to tip around the post.
Osei-Siribour was then guilty of a glaring miss on 65, as Duncum’s free-kick was headed over the keeper by Joe Maguire but Osei-Siribour somehow got too underneath the ball three yards out and looped his header over the bar.
Damian Magee then took Reid’s ball in off the foot of Duncum who was set to score on 79, but the win came in devastating fashion for the hosts in the second minute of injury-time when the ball fell to Battersby after all sorts of fun and games in the penalty area and the champions ended their season on the highest note possible, leaving Ilkeston to contemplate a home clash with Sheffield on Monday night.
Ilkeston: 1 Ben Gathercole 2 Joe Wilcox 3 Russell Peel 4 Laurie Wilson (c) 5 Josh Hill 6 Joe Maguire 7 Sam Duncum 8 Matt Richards 9 Francis Green (Daryll Thomas 59) 10 Andrew Osei-Siribour 11 James Reid Subs not used: Ryan Wilson, James Cullingworth, Gary Ricketts, Will McCall
Att: 780 Ref: C Taylor
Star Robin: Sam Duncum