Nantwich Town 1 Ilkeston FC 0
Plenty of possession but no cutting edge in front of goal proved Ilkeston’s undoing in Cheshire on Saturday as hosts Nantwich took all three points.
The Robins put in an improved display from that at Rushall Olympic four days earlier, but Sean Cooke’s goal early in the second-half was enough to give the similarly wasteful hosts victory.
On an outstanding surface at Nantwich’s impressive Weaver Stadium, the home team started brighter against a Robins side missing both Ryan and Laurie Wilson as well as striker Daryll Thomas.
It was Nantwich’s own Wilson, Kyle, who threatened first, flicking Lewis Short’s low ball into the six-yard box just past Chris Martin’s right-hand post.
Wilson again tested Martin moments later but his shot was easily saved, and the game then settled down into more of a midfield battle with Matt Richards pulling all the strings for the visitors.
He hit a low shot from outside the penalty area straight at keeper Jon Brain on 17, before Gary Ricketts flicked a ball on for Jack Watts but his effort was blocked in front of goal.
Nantwich’s Cooke was a tricky character and cut in from the right before firing a low shot just wide.
Ilkeston had the ball in the net on 29 minutes but to no avail, Jamie Clarke having strayed into an offside position before neatly steering home Ricketts’ ball into the penalty area.
The Robins dominated the rest of the half, keeper Brain having to come off his line twice to get to balls ahead of Ricketts and then Clarke when goals looked likely, and Ricketts then hitting a weak effort wide on the cusp of half-time.
Despite that promising end to the first period, the Robins struggled to maintain their dominance in the second-half.
Mark Beesley was just too high for Natnwich five minutes in and Cooke and Fraser McLachlan both went close before the only goal finally arrived on 55 minutes.
Cooke picked the ball up 40 yards out and danced past a couple of challenges before firing in a low shot that found the bottom corner of the net.
Both sides threatened goals thereafter, Beesley and Will Jones for Nantwich and Ricketts for Ilkeston, before the best of all the Robins’ efforts came closest to snatching a point with a minute left.
A free-kick 25 yards out was eyed up by sub James Reid and when his powerful strike went through the wall, Brain, who saw it late, changed direction and pulled off a stunning save to palm the ball away and ensure his side would be victors.
Nantwich: 1 Jon Brain 2 Matt Lowe (JJ Bailey 80) 3 Chris Flynn 4 Caspar Hughes 5 Mat Bailey 6 Rod McDonald 7 Sean Cooke 8 Fraser McLachlan 9 Mark Beesley (Will Jones 74) 10 Kyle Wilson 11 Lewis Short (Josh Lane 81). Subs not used: Nile Maguire, Christian Smith.
Scorer: Cooke 55 Ilkeston: 1 Chris Martin 2 Joe Wilcox 3 Greg Pearson 4 Joe Maguire 5 Dan Partridge 6 Russell Cooke 7 Jack Watts 8 Matt Richards 9 Gary Ricketts 10 Jamie Clarke (Alex Ford 66) 11 Will McCall (James Reid 66). Subs not used: Russell Peel, Ellis Storey, Mike Williams
Att: 385 Ref: Paul Marsden
Star Robin: Matt Richards
by Mark Duffy