No sooner had one Ilkeston number 11 headed for pastures new, another stepped up to take the plaudits at Whitby on Saturday.
Che Adams’ departure to Sheffield United on Thursday left a sizeable space to fill in the Robins line-up. Ashley Hunter was the man brought in for his first league start and he proceeded to fire home two goals to help his side to a hard-earned victory.
It wasn’t a classic Robins display by any means but they took control in the latter stages as Whitby tired, the lack of any football for the previous two weeks not at all evident among the young Ilkeston side.
Whitby began the stronger of the two sides but could only create half chances, Matt Brown too high from distance and Matt Waters just unable to get a touch to Steven Snaith’s low ball into the box on 11 minutes.
The Robins arrived in the game a quarter-of-an-hour into it with a passage of play that would eventually lead to them taking the lead.
A good move forward involving Kane Richards, James Reid and Hunter ended with the latter seeing his shot get a touch off a defender on its way over the crossbar.
From Reid’s resultant flag kick, skipper Joe Maguire was allowed enough space to get free and direct a cushioned header down and into the corner of the net.
Brown got on the end of a good Whitby move but couldn’t get enough of a shot in to worry the visitors, whilst at the other end Reid was well wide from 25 yards after some good inter-play with Hunter.
The Whitby equaliser arrived on 30 minutes and its execution was more convincing than its source.
Waters was surrounded by Robins defenders just outside the penalty area and the slightest of clips to his heel brought him to ground.
Up stepped Dale Hopson who curled a delightful strike past Jordan Smith and into the corner of the net from 22 yards out.
The Robins’ most dangerous moments tended to be coming from set pieces, Hunter seeing a glancing header from Reid’s corner cleared off the line not long before the break as half-time arrived with not much between the sides.
Duffy was first to show in the second-half, his volley flying just too high after Richards had posed a threat in the penalty area.
The Robins were on top and after Richards broke forward and saw a shot saved, Maguire’s header from a Reid free-kick hit the bar but Hunter couldn’t convert the rebound from a couple of yards out.
At the other end, Waters put a free header over the bar from a Whitby corner as the hosts responded, Brown then putting a good low shot just wide of Smith’s left-hand post.
But it would be Ilkeston who would retake the lead on 68 minutes and it was another young prospect who got the goal - his first for the club.
Kieran Wallace’s cross was nodded down by Duffy and Hunter nipped in to clip the ball over keeper Shane Bland and it slowly trickled inside the far post.
Whitby weren’t going to sit back and the Robins’’ best hope for a third looked to be on the break, Wallace putting a weak shot wide after being released by Hunter in such a situation, and Hunter then screwing a great chance wide with eight minutes to go when put in on goal.
Snaith flicked a late header over the top for Whitby and Waters’ weak shot found Smith’s arms, before the points were sealed as the game entered stoppage time when Richards found Hunter who missed the ball completely with his first attempt but made up for it with a low shot into the corner of the net, capping a hustling and bustling first league start in fine style.
Whitby: 1 Shane Bland, 2 Liam Shepherd, 3 Mark Robinson (c), 4 Ibrahim Hassan, 5 Lee Bullock (Kevin Burgess 36), 6 Dale Hopson, 7 Niall Doran, 8 Matt Brown (Craig Farrell 82), 9 Matt Waters, 10 Steven Snaith, 11 Lee Mason (Ross Gardner 69)
Subs not used: Darren Williams, David Campbell
Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith, 2 James Reid, 3 Kieran Wallace, 4 Akil Wright (Matt Baker 64), 5 Joe Maguire (c), 6 Jack Lane, 7 David Morgan, 8 Callum Chettle, 9 Rob Duffy, 10 Kane Richards (Eli Bako 90), 11 Ashley Hunter (Mike Williams 90)
Rai Simons, Luke Shaw
Ref: Chris Ellis
Star Robin: Ashley Hunter
Report by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)