Rampant Robins romp into play-off final

Ilkeston striker Gary Ricketts (partly hidden) heads his side in front against Sheffield FC on Monday night.
Ilkeston striker Gary Ricketts (partly hidden) heads his side in front against Sheffield FC on Monday night.

ILKESTON FC ran riot against Sheffield on Monday night to reach Saturday’s play-off final in style.

Division One South Play-off Semi-Final

ILKESTON FC 7

Gary Ricketts 26

Jack Watts 33

Daryll Thomas 53, 63

Matt Varley 59og

Francis Green 77

Matt Richards 82

SHEFFIELD FC 0 

by Mark Duffy

THE New Manor Ground was drenched in both rain and goals on Monday night as Ilkeston FC progressed in some style to Saturday’s play-off final.

A match played largely in horrendous conditions – with rain and hail relentless throughout – saw the hosts produce the kind of ruthlessness so often demanded by boss Kevin Wilson against a side rarely short of a goal or two themselves.

But despite an even and competitive opening 15 minutes Sheffield soon caved in, not helped by a red card for striker Conor Higginson just before half-time with the score at 2-0.

The Robins were nearly in front in the fifth minute, Jack Watts’ corner from the left flicked against the crossbar by Laurie Wilson.

Matt Richards wasn’t far away either with a dipping volley a minute later which was deflected over the top after another corner was cleared to him 25 yards out.

Sheffield then threatened from two corners of their own when firstly the ball fell to Matt Roney six yards out but his effort was deflected wide, and from the resulting flag kick Steve Woolley was also just past the post from the edge of the box.

Ryan Wilson then had to be alert to flick a dangerous Sheffield free-kick off the line and wide of the post on 14, while his namesake Laurie’s header was very close at the other end from a Robins set piece a minute later.

Ricketts was then inches away from Will McCall’s low ball into the six-yard box, but the veteran striker would be more successful within moments.

James Cullingworth swung in an excellent cross from the right and Ricketts found space to head low past Josh Mimms and put the Robins in front.

Ricketts was a constant threat and when the second goal arrived on 33 it was he who was the creator.

The big striker got a touch to Richards’ cross from the left to send the ball up in the air, and Watts arrived to guide a header perfectly into the corner off a post.

Sheffield’s task was then made a bit harder on 42 minutes when Higginson got stroppy about something or other in the penalty area and did all sorts of waving his arms around in disgust, twice nearly hitting Ilkeston players. The referee took a dim view of such histrionics and rightly sent him for an early bath – not that he could get much wetter than he already was.

Ricketts saw an effort cleared off the line by Matt Varley before the break, but it was the first real chance after half-time that effectively killed the game off.

Watts got free down the right on 53 minutes before putting in a fine cross which was beautifully guided past Mimms by Daryll Thomas and into the far corner of the net.

It was four on 59, Thomas the architect this time as his centre was sliced into his own net off the crossbar by Varley.

Thomas wasn’t done just yet, as just four minutes later he raced onto Watts’ fine through ball and smashed an excellent finish into the roof of the net.

Ilkeston then eased off a little but were always a threat, as the second four-figure attendance of the season continued to enjoy the show, perhaps with the exception of the 150 or so who had travelled from South Yorkshire.

Sub James Reid wasted a good chance when sent clear, but it was six on 77 minutes when Cullingworth’s cross was headed along a sodden goal line and off a post by Ricketts, leaving Francis Green, another recent arrival to proceedings, to put the ball into an empty net with virtually his first touch.

Green nearly scored again a minute later, his shot well tipped wide by Mimms, but Richards went one better on 82 by curling home a fine effort to complete both the scoring and Sheffield’s misery.

Ilkeston: 1 Lloyd Allinson 2 James Cullingworth 3 Ryan Wilson 4 Laurie Wilson 5 Dan Partridge 6 Russell Cooke (c) 7 Jack Watts (James Reid 67) 8 Matt Richards 9 Gary Ricketts 10 Daryll Thomas (Francis Green 69) 11 Will McCall (Sam Duncum 71) Subs not used: Joe Wilcox, Josh Hill

Att: 1,068 Ref: Dan Meeson

Star Robin: Jack Watts