This was yet another of those home games that Ilkeston laboured their way through but from which they ultimately walked away with three points.
In line with several home performances this season, this was far from inspiring stuff and left fans wondering why they weren’t getting more from their promotion challengers against an already relegated Belper Town.
In the end, Rob Duffy’s header early in the second-half was enough to earn a win which maintained a solid push for the play-offs, but it remains clear that better performances will be required if those play-offs are to end in promotion.
Belper, relegated a fortnight ago shortly before registering their first win in three months, once again showed that the shackles have been removed somewhat since their fate was confirmed.
They battled hard throughout and nearly stole a point late on only to find goalkeeper Jordan Smith to be perhaps the most awake person in the Robins line-up as he denied them with two excellent late saves.
Indeed, the visitors began the better side too. Rob Stevenson was first to threaten as he cut inside on five minutes but fired wide from 25 yards out.
Duffy’s through ball for Ilkeston then released Mike Williams but he was taken wide and could only shoot into the side netting having drawn the goalkeeper.
Former Robin Evan Garnett then had a shot parried by Smith as Belper continued to settle in well, but after that the game petered horribly out until half-time with very little in the way of quality or chances for either side.
After such a dire first-half it was then something of a relief to have a goal so early in the second which ultimately proved the decisive moment.
Just two minutes in, James Reid swung in a free-kick from the left and Duffy headed firmly into the net at the far post.
The game then went back into its previous lull, only half chances from Belper’s returning former Robin Laurie Wilson and Ilkeston’s Kane Richards threatening either goal but not the goalkeepers.
On one of the rare occasions Smith was called seriously into action he got down well to block sub Nabil Shariff’s shot and then gathered the rebound too which Shariff had scuffed straight to him as he lay on the ground.
Richards should then have sealed the win for Ilkeston as he was sent through on goal by Rai Simons and had just Haystead to beat, but he took far too long to make up his mind and when he finally tried to go around Haystead the goalkeeper swiped the ball from Richards’ feet and the chance was gone.
It nearly proved costly as seconds later Belper sub Jon Froggatt forced Smith into another fine save as he tipped his volley over the top.
Shariff then saw a volley blocked by Matt Baker as the visitors pressed for a surprise leveller, but in the end Ilkeston would hold out to keep a firm grip on second spot and even gain two points on leaders FC United who nevertheless remain in the driving seat for the title honours.
Monday, April 6, 2015:
Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith 2 Luke Shaw 3 James Reid 4 Matt Baker 5 Joe Burgess 6 Jack Lane 7 David Morgan (c) 8 Callum Chettle 9 Rob Duffy (Rai Simons 84) 10 Kane Richards 11 Mike Williams (Jake Wright 64) Subs not used: Lawrence Gorman, Ross Colquhoun, Curtis Burrows
Belper: 1 Dan Haystead 2 Ben Turner 3 Scott Matthews (Jon Froggatt 87) 4 Paul Lister 5 Phil Watt (Matt Varley 82) 6 Michael Towey 7 Laurie Wilson (c) 8 Jonathan Williams 9 Paul Grimes 10 Evan Garnett (Nabil Shariff 78) 11 Rob Stevenson. Subs not used: Steve Warne, Lynton Karkach
Ref: Chris Akers
Star Robin: Jordan Smith