This was another torrid afternoon in Ilkeston FC’s wildly unpredictable season.
Already knocked out of one major cup competition by lower league opposition, the onus before this clash at Gresley was to make sure it didn’t happen again.
But despite dominating possession throughout and creating plenty of openings, the Robins’ inability to convert their chances was once again their downfall.
Gresley had very few efforts on target - even their second goal was scored by an Ilkeston player - but they battled well and made life difficult for Ilkeston once a two-goal lead had been established.
The hosts came out all guns blazing, as you’d expect, and took the lead just seven minutes in when Marc Goodfellow, a scorer of two belters in the FA Cup at the New Manor Ground last season, curled over a free-kick from out wide which struck the far post.When the ball found its way back to him outside the right-hand edge of the penalty area, he smashed an unstoppable effort into top corner of the net that no goalkeeper in the world would have had a hope of stopping.
The hosts kept pressing and several crosses only just eluded interested attackers, but in the end it was one of Ilkeston’s front men that put Gresley two up on 19 minutes.
Jordan Nadat swung in a corner from the right and Aaron Hooton, who was looking to make an impression in a rare start this season, leapt majestically to head the ball into his own net at the near post to double the lead.
The Robins had a job on their hands but within two minutes of Hooton’s blunder he was to win his side a penalty kick, brought to ground by Liam Guest.
After a delay that saw injured Gresley midfielder Danny Holmes’ game come to an end, Aaron Webster stepped up to do the honours from the spot but blasted his low and central kick straight at the feet of Derby County loanee Ross Etheridge in goal and the ball went over the bar for a corner.
Aside from a Goodfellow shot just wide, Ilkeston would thereafter do most of the attacking on Gresley’s famously undulating pitch, Kane Richards in particular a threat as he saw one effort well saved by Etheridge and another, just before half-time, rattle the crossbar.
Jason Stokes also went close when he cut inside and hit a low effort that was pushed wide by Etheridge at his near post.
The second-half followed a similar pattern, with Ilkeston attacking and Gresley relying on counter-attacks, but the Robins’ product in the final third of the pitch was again lacking.
James Reid, Hooton and Richards all had shots from distance easily gathered by Etheridge, while Danny Gordon blazed well over when in a good position following Richards’ pull back.
Skipper Laurie Wilson had bizarrely been deployed at right-back for the majority of the game but proved far more effective when moved back to his usual central midfield role with 15 minutes to go, as part of changes that included the arrival of Gary Ricketts up front.
Dividends were paid quickly, as Wilson’s shot on 79 minutes was blocked out as far as Ricketts who placed a low shot into the corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area to finally put Ilkeston on the scoreboard.
That signalled the inevitable ‘kitchen sink’ style of football for the last few minutes but Gresley stood firm, the biggest scare coming when Stokes’ cross was headed over by Ricketts under pressure from Etheridge.
Gresley’s Jamie Barrett nearly added a third for his side with a late header over and Wilson saw a shot deflected off target for the Robins, but that was to be that and Ilkeston were left to take comfort from the old adage that they can now concentrate on the league.
Gresley: 1 Ross Etheridge 2 Mitch Hanson (Lucas Harrison 34) 3 John Guy 4 Liam Guest 5 Jamie Barrett (c) 6 Eric Graves 7 Paolo Piliero (Rob Spencer 66) 8 Danny Holmes (James Jepson 25) 9 Jordan Nadat 10 Kieran O’Connell 11 Marc Goodfellow. Subs not used: Dean Oliver, Mickey Lyons
Ilkeston: 1 Lloyd Allinson 2 Laurie Wilson (c) 3 Aaron Webster 4 Danny Gordon (Akil Wright 76) 5 Joe Maguire 6 Ellis Storey 7 Jason Stokes 8 Callum Chettle (Che Adams 76) 9 Aaron Hooton 10 Kane Richards 11 James Reid (Gary Ricketts 58) Subs not used: Matt Baker, Rob Peet
Att: 372 Ref: Chris Akers
Star Robin: Kane Richards
Report by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)
Photos by Rob Stephenson (Twitter - @sportsphotorob)