Report/slideshow: Skelmersdale Utd 2-0 Ilkeston FC

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Coming into considerable contact with a blunt object can usually do a fair bit of damage but it didn’t do Skelmersdale much harm in this clash on Saturday.

The league leaders did what they had to do to maintain their top spot and unbeaten home record but Ilkeston lacked a sharpness and cutting edge that could have been of use had their front men been firing on all cylinders.

In the end they left goalless and pointless after two seemingly preventable first-half strikes from the hosts but the Robins’ second-half efforts will at least have given some pleasure to boss Kevin Wilson even if they were ultimately futile.

Things got off to a bad start as Skelmersdale took the lead with their first meaningful attack seven minutes in.

Matty Hughes received the ball just inside his own half and was allowed time and space to run forward, beat one challenge and then finish past Ross Etheridge who got a touch to the ball that merely directed it into the corner of the net.

The Robins, as always, looked a threat whenever they went forward but nothing ever materialised inside the United penalty area to worry goalkeeper Zac Hibbert too much.

Matt Richards fired too high from 30 yards out and Tyrell Waite’s cross was inches away from connecting with Gary Ricketts who was throwing all kinds of shapes to try and reach the ball without success.

Either side of those openings, Skelmersdale’s Neil Prince volleyed over the top from a right-wing cross and striker Adam Morning curled a shot from the edge of the penalty area that Etheridge superbly tipped around the post for a corner.

Waite and James Reid both hit efforts from distance which were respectively gathered by Hibbert and just wide of the post, but Skelmersdale were to double their advantage on the half-hour mark.

It was pretty straightforward, as centre-half Tom Hardwick galloped forward a few yards before knocking a ball over the top that hardly had Robins players clambering to clear and instead Dean Astbury was able to run onto it and finish well past Etheridge - the second time he’s scored against Ilkeston this season having netted for Marine at the NMG in September.

Etheridge was called upon several times to keep the score down, saving well on the stroke of half-time as Alan Barton’s shot was again well tipped around a post.

The second-half saw Ilkeston much more up and at it but once again Hibbert was rarely tested. New winger Wilson Carvalho was lively but, in line with most of his teammates, his efforts bore no fruit.

At the other end Astbury, Morning and Hughes all went close, Etheridge denying the latter well with his feet, while for Ilkeston Ricketts had a header saved comfortably by Hibbert from Cheye Alexander’s cross and Laurie Wilson was wide with a volley from 25 yards.

The Robins’ best moment came five minutes from the end when Reid’s free-kick into the box was met by Matt Baker’s header but Hibbert got up to tip the effort over the bar.

Another late save by Etheridge denied sub Gareth Peet in injury-time, with Ilkeston ultimately left to rue their attacking limitations as they headed back down the M6 with little to shout about.

Saturday, January 11, 2014:

Skelmersdale: 1 Zac Hibbert 2 Kenny Strickland 3 Tom Ince (Shaun Holden 83) 4 Tom Hardwick (c) 5 Peter Wylie 6 Ashley Dunn 7 Matty Hughes 8 Alan Burton (Gareth Peet 89) 9 Dean Astbury 10 Adam Morning 11 Neil Prince. Subs not used: Jonah O’Reilly, Danny Greene, Lewis Field

Ilkeston: 1 Ross Etheridge 2 Cheye Alexander 3 Ryan Wilson (Kane Richards 50) 4 Laurie Wilson (c) 5 Ellis Storey 6 Matt Baker 7 Wilson Carvalho 8 Matt Richards 9 Gary Ricketts (Aaron Hooton 72) 10 Tyrell Waite 11 James Reid. Subs not used: Akil Wright, Callum Chettle, Rob Peet.

Att: 353 Ref: Matt Donohue

Star Robin: Ross Etheridge

Report by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)

Photos by Rob Stephenson (@sportsphotorob)