Ilkeston saw their Derbyshire Senior Cup hopes ended at the first hurdle on Monday night as near neighbours Long Eaton United secured victory.
The Robins made 11 changes from their win over Ramsbottom on Saturday, much of the side made up by their academy prospects and fringe players.
Ultimately they didn’t have enough to overhaul a far more experienced United side that play their football two divisions lower in the Midland Football League, but there were still some positive signs to take from the game.
Tom Cooper-Richards drove wide for the visitors inside the first minute, and it wouldn’t be long before their positive start brought a reward.
Blaine Hancock burst into the penalty area only to be fouled by keeper Jahquil Hill as he went away from goal, although the fans behind the call felt Hill got more ball than player. Former Ilkeston Town player Paolo Piliero confidently stroked home the penalty.
The Robins were struggling to settle, Mike Williams with their first real effort on 13 minutes which was straight into the hands of former Robin Scott Low in the United goal.
United nearly had a second moments later when Adam Burton’s header from a corner hit the top of the crossbar, Elliot King then over the top with a header from another corner on 19.
The set pieces were proving a problem for Ilkeston and after Hill dropped a Piliero flag kick two minutes later, Cooper-Richards blazed over the bar from six yards out.
Jerome O’Connor forced Hill to save low to his right as United continued to control things, although a good break down the left from Rhys Dolan saw him exchange passes with Redmond Lee before firing well wide of Low’s goal.
O’Connor then saw a goal disallowed for offside after Ilkeston hadn’t cleared a corner well enough, Williams driving forwards before firing wide at the other end before the referee brought a frustrating half for the hosts to a close.
The Robins began the second-half well and Williams headed Haydn Goddard’s cross at Low in the opening stages.
Lee then turned the ball over the top from six yards out from a Williams ball in, the creator then nearly scorer with a powerful free-kick pushed wide by Low.
Chances dried aup a little at each end, Ilkeston hampered by Williams’ departure - perhaps with an eye on Saturday’s trip to Rushall - but United then went two up with a fine goal.
O’Connor had been lively all night and when the ball dropped to him 25 yards out he hit a powerful low drive past Hill and into the corner.
The Robins looked beaten but still had a bit of fight in them. They pulled a goal back on 84 minutes when Burrows was fouled by Dean Haynes after a fine through ball by Keenan Meakin, Burrows netting the spot-kick himself.
Mason Barlow headed a Meakin free-kick wide at the back post two minutes later as the Robins searched for an equaliser, and after a Goddard free-kick into the box only just missed the far post in stoppage time, the referee blew to signal the end of Ilkeston’s Derbyshire Senior Cup involvement at the first hurdle.
Ilkeston: 1 Jahquil Hill, 2 Connor Walters, 3 Rhys Dolan, 4 Ryan Head, 5 Jordan Smith, 6 Keenan Meakin, 7 Haydn Goddard, 8 Mike Williams (Mason Barlow 63), 9 Curtis Burrows (c), 10 Luis Rose, 11 Redmond Lee (David Jones 79)
Subs not used: Ben Morris, Billy Johnson, Jake Sawyer
Long Eaton: 1 Scott Low, 2 Dean Haynes, 3 James Walker, 4 Blaine Hancock (Jack Upton 70), 5 Adam Burton, 6 Shaun Rickford, 7 Josh Wright, 8 Paolo Piliero (c), 9 Jerome O’Connor (Jarrod Westcarr 78), 10 Elliot King (Brad Wells 59), 11 Tom Cooper-Richards
Subs not used: Ben Gowing, Kieran Anderson
Ref: J Oldham
Star Robin: Mike Williams