TWO goals in each half earned Ilkeston FC a comfortable win in the West Midlands on Saturday.
Evo-Stik Division One South
ILKESTON FC 4
Jack Watts 36
Joe Maguire 43
Sam Duncum 52
James Reid 77
by Rod Malcolm
THE signs were grim enough to cheer a pessimist; the manager had a virus and couldn’t shout at his players, the captain was suspended and the Robins were playing on a wicked plastic pitch which defeated them in August.
That was before you found the man in the stand reading a novel about psychoanalysis. “Is it good?” he was politely asked. “I’ll tell you when I’ve finished it,” growled the reader, adjusting his woolly muffler.
But then Ilkeston began attacking the goal bathed in sun and so the Robins’ fans lined up behind it, determined to enjoy the day.
By the time the temperature dipped, their stock had risen.
There were a few scares as Romulus tried to follow their landlords Sutton Coldfield and beat Ilkeston on the surface where beads of rubber bounce up. Winger Ashley Jackson employed a purple-and-pink boot to good effect, putting a shot narrowly wide.
Opposing winger Sam Duncum confounded the gloom merchants with a run past two tackles and a cross which was headed over by Gary Ricketts, skipper in the absence of Russell Cooke.
Returning goalkeeper Ben Gathercole then saved from Liam Francis and the follow-up shot was hit wide by Charisma Agbonlahor.
Josh Hill was next called to arms, producing a perfect challenge to halt Nathan Blissett, a tall and awkward customer who led the line with enthusiasm. Boss Kevin Wilson, sitting in the stand, was pleased with that.
Jackson got in a difficult cross and Ryan Wilson was facing his own goal with two forwards trying to read the maker’s label on his shirt. He managed to clear his lines and Dan Partridge was soon doing equally good work.
Ricketts headed away a Romulus corner although he was fouled. He had to have a speck of rubber removed from an eye, a first for the Ilkeston physio.
Reserve keeper Lewis Exall was wearing a fetching two-piece in black and yellow. Joe Maguire burst through to strike a shot against the tracksuit bottoms before suddenly Ilkeston were in front.
A long free-kick dropped into the crowded penalty area and went back to Jack Watts in the 37th minute. The volley hit the base of the post on its way home.
The second goal arrived in 43 minutes when Maguire swept the ball in after a corner. The Ilkeston manager made a couple of mobile calls to assistant Darren Caskey, who was also ill but able to patrol the technical area.
Gathercole had to make an athletic save from Blissett just before the break. James Cullingworth, all composure at right-back, preserved the lead with a block soon after.
And in 52 minutes, any Romulus revival was forgotten. Matt Richards bestrode the pitch and supplied Duncum, who was wide on the left but produced a shot which flew into the top far corner. “My only Ilson,” sang the fans as they twirled scarves in unison.
That was a fine goal but a finer one was arriving.
A home attack ended with Richards emerging from the madding crowd in the Ilkeston penalty area. He fed Duncum who cut in from the left, and the cross was rammed home by James Reid in the 77th minute.
“We’re just too good for you,” sang the Ilkeston fans to ragged Romulus before congratulating Wilson and urging him not to take the England job.
“Me and Darren turned it down,” he replied, feeling an awful lot more cheerful after this anti-viral medicine administered by his players.
Ilkeston: 1 Ben Gathercole 2 James Cullingworth 3 Ryan Wilson 4 Joe Maguire 5 Dan Partridge 6 Josh Hill 7 James Reid 8 Matt Richards 9 Gary Ricketts (Tyrell Waite 82) 10 Jack Watts 11 Sam Duncum (Daryll Thomas 82)
Subs not used: Joe Wilcox, Russell Peel, Scott Low
Ref: M Jones (Stafford)
Star Robin: Sam Duncum