With a congested end to the season in store the Doodson Sport Cup may or may not be of use to Ilkeston as they seek more illustrious glories in their league campaign.
This tie needed a penalty shoot-out to decide it after the Robins laboured to a 2-2 draw with Division One South side Spalding, a place in the semi-finals the reward for the hosts who perhaps surprisingly put out a strong side rather than resting more key players for important league games ahead.
The visitors were competitive throughout and defended well to deny Ilkeston too many clear cut openings, but in the end a 100 per cent success rate in the shoot-out would be enough to take Ilkeston through.
Callum Chettle put the first chance of the game over the top for Ilkeston three minutes in, but after a lull in proceedings it would be Spalding who would take the lead on 13 minutes.
A free-kick was pumped into the box by Jamie Thurlbourne and despite two or three Spalding players looking to be in offside positions, the ball was diverted home by the head of Michael Leary.
Ilkeston were sloppy in possession which played firmly into Spalding’s hands as they looked to launch attacks quickly, another half chance the best the hosts could muster on 20 minutes when Jake Wright volleyed high and wide from Luke Shaw’s cross.
Spalding nearly made it 2-0 on 26 when Jordan Nuttell saw his close range flick turned around the post by keeper Jordan Smith after a good passing move, before at the other end James Reid let fly from 25 yards but his effort hit the side netting.
Jake Wright’s shot suffered a similar fate on 36 minutes after he’d turned and volleyed ten yards out, but Spalding keeper Sam Donkin was rarely being troubled by the sporadic Ilkeston attacks.
That was the case until three minutes before half-time when, from Akil Wright’s through b all, Rai Simons ran in on goal but saw his shot saved by the legs of the United man.
Simons then saw a shot deflected over the top as Ilkeston finished the half strongly, that after Mike Williams’ low ball had initially evaded Jake Wright by inches.
The equaliser came from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time. Jake Wright was fouled by Lewis Webb and Reid stepped up to hammer the spot-kick low into the corner of the net and send the teams in level at the break.
That parity lasted three minutes of the second-half. A Robins corner was cleared and after a swift Spalding counter-attack the ball fell to Mitch Griffiths who swept home from 12 yards out.
Williams was then denied by a goalline clearance from Adam Jackson as the hosts looked to respond, Jackson then very lucky not to put the ball into his own net as he sliced his clearance from a Reid free-kick just past the post.
The Robins would soon get level for a second time. Simons did well to set up Jake Wright who slid the ball past Donkin from 12 yards out for his first Ilkeston goal.
Shaw then fired a low cross in that Donkin had to be alert to push away from danger, then Reid blasted too high and Simons fired straight at Donkin in stoppage time meaning the penalty shoot-out would decide the winner - the first in the Robins’ short history.
Spalding’s Thurlbourne opened the shoot-out and once his effort struck a post Ilkeston wouldn’t look back.
Nobody else missed and successful kicks from Ilkeston’s Reid, Shaw, Joe Maguire, Williams and finally Jake Wright ensured a 5-4 shoot-out win and a place in the last four.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015:
Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith 2 Luke Shaw 3 James Reid 4 Matt Baker 5 Joe Maguire (c) 6 Jack Lane 7 Akil Wright (Eli Bako 73) 8 Callum Chettle (Edouard Schoenecker 73) 9 Jake Wright 10 Mike Williams 11 Rai Simons. Subs not used: Lawrence Gorman, Eddy Samba, Greg Simmons
Spalding: 1 Sam Donkin 2 Michael Leary 3 Adam Jackson 4 Jamie Stevens 5 Nathan Stainfield (Elliott Hodge 34) 6 Lewis Webb 7 Mitch Griffiths 8 Chris Hall 9 Jordan Nuttell (Luke Thurleborne 90) 10 Tom Waumsley (Nathan Adam 85) 11 Jamie Thurlbourne. Subs not used: George Stainfield, Lewis McKue
Ref: M Jones
Star Robin: Jake Wright