REPORT AND SLIDESHOW: Robins earn opening day draw

Whitby Town 1 Ilkeston FC 1

Antwan Russell’s exquisite lob early in the second-half earned Ilkeston a point at Whitby on Saturday after an entertaining opening day clash by the seaside.

It was ultimately a point the Robins deserved after they recovered from a poor first-half display, both sides also having to compete with a gusty wind which played a part in each of the goals scored.

Early half chances for Ilkeston’s Laurie Wilson and Whitby’s Adam Rundle both showed their respective sides’ attacking intent, but when the opening goal arrived on nine minutes it was more slapstick than anything else.

A pass forward was about to be cleared by the Robins defence but a freak gust of wind then held the ball up and stopped it reaching any orange shirt, striker Craig Farrell instead able to capitalise and go around keeper Rob Peet before sliding the ball into the empty net.

The Robins didn’t really recover from that dreadful start and most first-half chances would fall to the hosts with Farrell, Rundle and Kevin Burgess all seeing efforts go close.

Laurie Wilson was nearest to netting for Ilkeston, his long range half volley pushed away well by debutant Whitby keeper Shane Bland, with James Reid also putting a shot from distance just past the post on the stroke of half-time.

The second-half saw Ilkeston play with much more control and desire, though Burgess put a free header wide from a Whitby corner on 50 minutes.

The equaliser was equally as bizarre as the opener had been. Another gust of wind caused confusion in the defence and Bland decided to put the ball out for a throw-in wide on the left.

But that’s also where the keeper was at the time, and when Matt Richards’ quick thinking from the throw saw him find Russell, the Bermudan was able to lob the back-tracking Bland from 25 yards for a fine equaliser.

The Robins then became the side most likely to win the game, Kane Richards in particular looking lively with a decent effort straight at Bland after cutting inside, and Laurie Wilson twice more seeing efforts blocked.

The hosts weren’t finished either, however, and Dave McTiernan and Farrell saw shots blocked and skewed wide respectively, before the best chance of a winner came to the Robins in stoppage time when Kane Richards broke free with excellent pace and power before hitting a powerful shot which Bland tipped over the bar for a corner.

But that was to be the last chance of the game and the points were deservedly shared.

Whitby: 1 Shane Bland 2 Kevin Burgess 3 Mark Robinson (c) 4 Lee Bullock (Craig James 28) 5 Richard Pell 6 Dave McTiernan 7 Nathan Mulligan (Shane Henry 87) 8 Tom Portas 9 Steven Snaith 10 Craig Farrell 11 Adam Rundle. Subs not used: Nathan Evans, Danny Dixon, Mark Cook.

Ilkeston: 1 Rob Peet 2 Chris Palmer 3 Ryan Wilson (Rob Kozluk 90) 4 Laurie Wilson (c) 5 Matt Baker 6 Aaron Webster 7 Jason Stokes (Gary Ricketts 60) 8 James Reid (Danny Gordon 89) 9 Antwan Russell 10 Kane Richards 11 Matt Richards. Subs not used: Callum Chettle, Gary Hooton.

Att: 327 Ref: Barry Gordon (Chester-le-Street)

Star Robin: Aaron Webster

by Mark Duffy

All photos by Rob Stephenson (e-mail: info@robertstephensonphotography.co.uk)