This was another horrid afternoon for Ilkeston FC and it was pretty much all of their own making.
Once again they lacked any kind of quality in the final third, and coupled with dreadfully poor ball retention and a lack of tempo at any point, there was only ever going to be one outcome.
Among the mitigating circumstances will have been an energy-sapping 120 minutes on a poor pitch at Buxton just three days earlier and also a questionable performance from referee Robert Atkin, but neither can be entirely blamed for what was a very disappointing display from the home side.
Atkin’s decision to send off Robins defender Matt Baker early in the second-half looked to be the wrong one but the hosts had already shown that even had they been given an extra player let alone lost one they would still have struggled to win this match.
Grantham were well-organised and did what they had to do. They had the better of the chances throughout and took two of them.
Ilkeston had the first real opening, Laurie Wilson shooting straight at keeper Dan Haystead after Wilson Carvalho’s pull back, before Robins keeper Ross Etheridge was forced into his first good save of the afternoon to beat away Michael Towey’s 12th minute effort after a good move from the visitors.
Half chances for Greg Smith and Gary King were fruitless for Grantham before Ilkeston’s best opening of the afternoon fell to James Reid on 28 minutes.
He was fed by a pass from Gary Ricketts but, on his weaker right foot, fired his effort against the crossbar from just inside the penalty area.
Etheridge, who for the third game in a row would be Ilkeston’s star player, then saved well from Paul Grimes after a free-kick fell to him in the penalty area, before a glaring chance for the visitors went begging just before the break when a cross found Lee Ridley in space six yards out but he mis-hit his shot and the ball was cleared.
After Deon Meikle had shot too high early in the second-half for Grantham they then took the lead in controversial circumstances on 57 minutes.
Grimes was released through the middle but Baker unquestionably fouled him 25 yards out. A yellow card seemed most appropriate given team-mate Ryan Wilson was close by and in a position to cover Baker had Grimes got through, but referee Atkin disagreed and sent Baker off.
Salt was then rubbed in the wound as Grimes stepped up to curl home the resultant free-kick and put Grantham in front.
The Robins didn’t recover from that although there remained little excuse for the poor passing and lack of quality up front that were the real reasons they lost the game.
Meikle could have followed Baker into the dressing room when, as last man, he fouled Tyrell Waite late on, Atkin this time opting for just yellow.
But after Smith had forced Etheridge into another good save and both Wilson and Akil Wright missed half chances for the Robins, the win was sealed five minutes from time as skipper Paul Lister scored from the rebound after his first effort was brilliantly stopped by the young Robins keeper.
Ilkeston boss Kevin Wilson left the referee’s ears ringing at full-time over the decisions he’d made, but the fact remained that the Robins hadn’t been good enough and could really have had no complaints at losing the game.
Saturday, January 18, 2014:
Ilkeston: 1 Ross Etheridge 2 Cheye Alexander 3 Ryan Wilson 4 Laurie Wilson (c) 5 Matt Baker 6 Ellis Storey 7 Wilson Carvalho (Akil Wright 57) 8 Callum Chettle (Kane Richards 83) 9 Gary Ricketts 10 Tyrell Waite 11 James Reid. Subs not used: Mike Williams, Aaron Hooton, Danny Gordon.
Grantham: 1 Dan Haystead 2 Josh Lacey 3 Lee Ridley 4 Deon Meikle 5 Paul Lister (c) 6 Rhys Lewis 7 Gary King 8 Michael Towey (Anton Foster 26) 9 Paul Grimes 10 Greg Smith (Liam Motson 90) 11 Lee Ridley. Subs not used: Kallum Smith, Adie Hawes, Richard Whyman
Att: 456 Ref: Robert Atkin
Star Robin: Ross Etheridge
Report by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)
Photos by Rob Stephenson (@sportsphotorob)