Report: Halesowen Town 0-0 Ilkeston FC

Ilkeston wing-back James Reid gets down the left at Halesowen on Saturday. Photo by Craig Lamont.

Ilkeston wing-back James Reid gets down the left at Halesowen on Saturday. Photo by Craig Lamont.

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The strongest attack in the division came up against the meanest defence on Saturday and the result was perhaps inevitably a goalless draw.

That outcome was probably fair as neither side were able to break down the opposition’s defence, Ilkeston having to work that bit harder at the back during the second-half but seeing it through without any major alarms.

Matt Baker was immense at the heart of defence as he swallowed most of what came his way, although Ilkeston were frustratingly toothless up front with only a couple of clear chances threatening to win them the points.

But a 16th game unbeaten was the reward and the promotion push remains firmly on track.

The Robins started on the front foot and Luke Shaw had an early opening but could only skew his shot wide after being released by Rai Simons.

Halesowen’s first real chance came on 11 minutes when Tom Tonks’ looping volley took a deflection just wide of the angle of post and bar.

An even better chance came three minutes later as Tonks’ long throw was cleared only as far as Kristian Green on the edge of the penalty area and his low drive was pushed away by Jordan Smith.

Ilkeston were initially industrious going forward and came close to an opener on 24 minutes when James Reid’s looping fross was met by Rob Duffy but his header back across goal struck the top of the crossbar.

Tonks was close again with a weak shot at Smith for the hosts, then another of his long throws set up Iyesden Christie whose flicked header was easily gathered by the Robins keeper.

Akil Wright was enjoying his central midfield role and even had a foray forward just before the break, his run seeing him beat three players before firing a low shot in that was pushed around the post by Matt Sargeant in goal.

Tonks’ long throws were proving tricky for Ilkeston to defend and Green nearly profited again right on half-time as the ball dropped to him a few yards out but his shot went wide, meaning the teams retreated to the dressing rooms level at the break.

The Robins started the second-half strongly too and nearly went in front when Reid’s low shot was parried wide by Sargeant.

Aaron Griffiths couldn’t convert Ben Haseley’s pull back moments later as the home side created their best opening of the half so far, Christie then screwing a shot wide after Smith’s poor clearance.

Griffiths had another opportunity on the hour mark as he cut inside but shot straight at Smith, and Ben Haseley, a goal machine in Halesowen’s promotion season, mis-hit at Smith after creating space for himself.

The balance was shifting the way of the hosts and sub Robert Thompson-Brown saw an effort deflected into Smith’s hands after another Tonks long throw had caused problems.

Debutant sub Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson was a lively introduction for the Robins and saw a shot fired straight at Sargeant after being fed by Shaw, whilst the Yeltz’ favourite tactic of a Tonks long throw was again close to bringing reward when a clearance fell to Elliott Turner who could only fire over.

But ultimately a draw would be the outcome - Ilkeston’s second in a row.

Halesowen: 1 Matt Sargeant, 2 Kristian Green, 3 Aaron Griffiths (Neil MacKenzie 88), 4 Aaron Forde, 5 Joel Kettle, 6 Curtis Tilt (c), 7 Asa Charlton, 8 Thomas Tonks, 9 Iyesden Christie (Robert Thompson-Brown 76), 10 Ben Haseley, 11 Danny Bragoli (Elliott Turner 76)

Subs not used: Joe Hull, Sam Pearson

Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith, 2 James Reid, 3 Luke Shaw, 4 Matt Baker, 5 Joe Maguire (c), 6 Jack Lane, 7 Akil Wright, 8 Callum Chettle, 9 Rob Duffy, 10 Mike Williams (Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson 64), 11 Rai Simons (Eddy Samba 87)

Subs not used: Lawrence Gorman, Elliott Hodgett-Young, Arinse Uade

Ref: Grant Taylor

Star Robin: Matt Baker

Ilkeston are next back in action on Monday night with the visit of Blyth Spartans to the New Manor Ground, kick-off 7.45pm.