Ilkeston’s academy side saw their promising FA Youth Cup run come to an end on Tuesday night as Accrington Stanley edged this tie in the second round proper.
The Robins played superbly throughout but couldn’t find the killer touch in front of goal, Stanley instead winning through to play West Ham thanks to Nathan Webb’s 71st minute winner.
That was harsh on Ilkeston, who after easing through the qualifying rounds had then beaten Northampton Town 7-4 a fortnight ago to earn a visit from Accrington and were the better side for much of the game.
Once again the reputation of the Robins’ academy was enhanced, visiting scouts from a number of top clubs no doubt impressed by what they saw.
The Robins bossed the first-half from start to finish, playing incisive passing football and tackling superbly at the back.
Rai Simons was close to opening the scoring five minutes in when he ran on to Ryan Osborne’s fine through ball but saw his effort bounce just wide of the far post.
Osborne himself was next to threaten, a low shot from 25 yards pushed around the post by keeper Kieran Wolland.
Simons then saw a shot blocked when a goal looked on, while at the other end a rare Stanley attack saw Dalian Barker’s low effort easily dealt with by Charlie Mansfield in the Ilkeston goal.
The closest Ilkeston came to a first-half goal was on 33 minutes as Che Adams broke forward, cut inside and then hit a shot across Wolland which struck the far post and the ball was cleared.
Simons was a constant threat and good skill set up a shot which Wolland gathered, and half-time arrived with most in the ground believing another shock result was on the cards.
However, Accrington had a bit more about them in the second-half and early efforts from Webb and Max Hazeldine seemed to indicate they’d had a verbal bashing at the break.
Still Ilkeston looked to control things, however, and Osborne wasn’t far away after cutting in from the left on 55 minutes.
The only goal came against the run of play on 71. A cheap free-kick was given away out on the right hand side and when the highly-rated Connor Mahoney put the ball into the six-yard box, Webb, who was probably the smallest player on the pitch, glanced an unchallenged header past Mansfield from six yards out.
Ilkeston’s resolve wasn’t weakened and they kept plugging away, Callum Chettle, Osborne and sub Goran Seymour all close to an equaliser.
Stanley looked to wrap things up with Hazeldine and Webb both missing good chances, Hazeldine through on goal but Mansfield saving well.
The Robins then came agonisingly close to forcing extra-time with just seconds of the five added minutes remaining, when Simons worked space for himself in the six yard box but somehow stabbed his effort millimetres wide, causing several of his team-mates to collapse to the floor wondering what might have been.
The final whistle soon followed and Ilkeston’s impressive and talented squad were left distraught at their failure to progress, but no doubt wholly encouraged by the manner of defeat.
FA YOUTH CUP SECOND ROUND PROPER
Tuesday, November 19, 2013:
Ilkeston: 1 Charlie Mansfield 2 Luke Shaw (Liam Mahon 87) 3 Curtis Burrows 4 Jacob Holt 5 Akil Wright (c) 6 Spencer Edwards 7 Karum Shankar (Goran Seymour 71) 8 Callum Chettle 9 Rai Simons 10 Ryan Osborne (Elliott Facey 87) 11 Che Adams. Subs not used: Harry Williams, Chris Howard
Accrington: 1 Kieran Wolland 2 Daniel Wolfenden 3 Daniel Hennigan 4 Liam Goulding (c) 5 Luke Greaves 6 Nathan Hudson 7 Connor Mahoney 8 Dieter Downey 9 Dalian Barker (Jack Hartley 67) 10 Nathan Webb 11 Max Hazeldine. Subs not used: Callum Walsh, Roman Hickey, James Deakin, Callum Gunner Star Robin: Rai Simons Att: 228 Ref: Akil Howson
Report by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)
Photos by Rob Stephenson (Twitter - @sportsphotorob)