After the previous week’s non-event against Matlock Town, the scene was set for Ilkeston to bounce back with a display of passion and positivity against another local rival in the form of Buxton.
Another disjointed and frustrating performance was their answer and it all left home fans wondering just where the next three points might come from if things carry on in a similar vein, especially against more dangerous opposition than Saturday’s visitors.
Buxton, themselves needing points to escape the threat of relegation, didn’t create too much in the way of chances but Liam Hardy scored the two that came his way and the Robins were left to curse a lack of creativity in the final third - perhaps with the exception of Matt Richards who looked their biggest threat throughout.
For the first 15 minutes it looked as if things might be better than seven days earlier after all, Joe Maguire heading a corner wide of the post and debutant striker Rob Duffy volleying too high after good work by Matt Richards down the left.
Chey Adams put a reasonable chance wide at the back post moments later, and the evidence was that Ilkeston could well turn the screw and take the points.
Matt Thornhill’s effort from distance that went too high was Buxton’s only effort of note in the first quarter-of-an-hour, skipper Lee Morris seeing two similar strikes suffer the same fate 15 minutes later.
But the opening goal would come six minutes before half-time and Morris was the creator, as his shot inside the penalty area ricocheted off Maguire and fell nicely for Hardy who pounced to find the net from six yards out.
Ilkeston nearly had an equaliser in first-half stoppage time as Duffy ran onto a through ball but hit a difficult half volley straight into the arms of veteran keeper Andy Warrington.
Ilkeston had the better of things in the second-half but that wasn’t saying a great deal.
Duffy’s looping header from Ryan Wilson’s free-kick was pushed wide by Warrington, before the Robins came as close as they would all day when Maguire’s header from a corner was diverted over the bar by the unlucky Kane Richards just a couple of yards out with his back to goal.
The decisive second goal came on 72 minutes when Hardy was released centrally and held off Maguire’s attentions to slam the ball past Ross Etheridge and seemingly end the game as a contest.
Keeping possession had been a luxury neither side fancied embracing throughout the afternoon but it was costing the Robins dear - even the introduction of Gary Ricketts and James Reid unable to spark a revival although Ricketts was very close to converting a Matt Richards centre late on only to be denied by defender and goalkeeper.
Buxton had two men sent off in the reverse fixture back in August and this time it was Ilkeston who would finish short of numbers as, three minutes from time, debutant Eli Bako reacted to a tackle from Spencer Harris by raising his hands to the Bucks sub and referee Ian Smedley took a dim view of the whole affair by sending Bako off and booking Harris.
It had little bearing on the outcome, the last few minutes of the game petering out and leaving home fans once again decidedly unenthused by what they had witnessed.
Saturday, March 15, 2014:
Ilkeston: 1 Ross Etheridge 2 Akil Wright 3 Ryan Wilson 4 Eli Bako 5 Joe Maguire (c) 6 Ellis Storey 7 Chey Adams 8 Callum Chettle (James Reid 72) 9 Rob Duffy (Gary Ricketts 63) 10 Kane Richards (Rai Simons 69) 11 Matt Richards. Subs not used: Mike Williams, Curtis Burrows
Buxton: 1 Andy Warrington 2 Stuart Ludlam 3 Jamie Green 4 Josh Davies (Derek Niven 78) 5 Ash Palmer 6 Sam Brooks 7 Neil Stevens 8 Matt Thornhill (Spencer Harris 55) 9 Lee Morris (c) (Mark Reed 61) 10 Liam Hardy 11 Craig King. Subs not used: Steve Istead, Jordan Hodder
Att: 454 Ref: Ian Smedley
Star Robin: Matt Richards
Report by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)
Photos by Rob Stephenson (@sportsphotorob)