Ilkeston FC sunk to another battling defeat as three first-half goals from Darlington continued the Robins’ winless league run at Heritage Park.
Andy Watson’s men are now without a win in three league games and Dan Udoh’s consolation goal here is the only time they have found the net in that time.
Darlington, on the other hand, continued their push for an automatic promotion spot.
Ilkeston began the game with Udoh as the lone striker, Curtis Burrows sat in behind with Dexter Atkinson and Luis Rose on the flanks. Ilkeston captain Matt Baker made his 100th competitive appearance.
The Robins began well, Luke Shaw surged infield and found Burrows who then slid in Udoh but the Ilkeston striker couldn’t control the ball.
In a fantastic atmosphere at Heritage Park, Darlington’s first attack nearly brought the opener as a great cross from Nathan Cartman across the face of goal found Lee Gaskell who poked goal-wards but Jamie Hannis reacted well to deny the effort point blank.
Gaskell then threatened again as his curling effort from outside the box went over the bar, but after ten minutes, the hosts took the lead. Terry Galbraith delivered a corner to the back post where Cartman nodded past Hannis.
The opener gave the Quakers elevated confidence, Stephen Thompson fizzled a driven shot just wide of the far post before Hannis held Thompson’s second attempt from outside the box.
Darlington increased the pressure, Gary Brown collecting a long free-kick into the box but his well struck shot going just over the bar. Cartman showed great creativity when he was put through and his lobbed effort beat Hannis but fell short of the post.
However, after 22 minutes, the hosts doubled the lead. A long throw into the box was not dealt with and Gaskell was on hand to head home at the back post.
Ilkeston struggled for large portions of the first-half as too often possession was squandered and the front three of Udoh, Burrows and Atkinson lacked cohesion.
With 33 minutes on the clock, the Quakers made it three. Another corner was delivered in by Galbraith and Brown was on hand to tap the ball in despite the efforts of Hannis on the line.
The second-half brought a significant improvement for Ilkeston who moved the ball with fluidity and looked dangerous on the attack.
Atkinson showed good pace on the counter to release Udoh but his pass for Luis Rose was too long. Darlington’s Phil Turnbull then mustered two efforts within a few minutes as the first went wide before the second effort went even closer, shaving the far post.
Ilkeston responded and dominated the majority of the second-half, Udoh was the main threat; he had a shot blocked from just outside the box before firing an effort straight at Peter Jameson.
The Robins maintained a threat as Burrows’ effort was blocked after an electric counter from Atkinson. Burrows then came agonisingly close again when his effort destined for the top corner was tipped over by Jameson.
Shaw was unlucky to not hit the target and then the Quakers nearly added a fourth against the run of play, Liam Hardy wriggling into space before forcing Hannis to tip the ball over the bar.
However, in stoppage time, Ilkeston got their consolation. Rose did well on the left side to square the ball to Udoh who on the third attempt managed to finish into the bottom corner to cap off a promising second-half.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016:
Darlington: 1 Peter Jameson 2 Chris Hunter 3 Terry Galbraith 4 Phil Turnbull 5 Kevin Burgess (c) 6 Gary Brown 7 Tom Portas 8 Leon Scott 9 Lee Gaskell (Adam Nowakowski 67) 10 Nathan Cartman (Liam Hardy 50) 11 Stephen Thompson (Graeme Armstrong 50)
Subs not used: Jim Provett, Adam Mitchell
Scorers: Cartman 10, Gaskell 22, Brown 33
Ilkeston: 1 Jamie Hannis 2 Luke Shaw 3 Aiden Print 4 Ryan Head 5 Matt Baker (c) 6 Haydn Goddard 7 Dexter Atkinson 8 Danny Gordon 9 Dan Udoh 10 Curtis Burrows 11 Luis Rose
Subs not used: Keenan Meakin, Ben Morris, Connor Walters
Scorer: Udoh 90