Marine 1 Ilkeston FC 1
Jordan Smith’s first Ilkeston goal earned them a point on Merseyside in a match the Robins arguably deserved to win.
Despite fielding an unfamiliar line-up on Saturday and going behind inside four minutes, the visitors impressed throughout and only an outstanding display by home goalkeeper Callum Williams denied them all three points.
With three of the back four being young loanees, including debutant left-back Steven Smith, and central midfield featuring two players usually employed in wide positions in the shape of Ryan Wilson and Jack Watts, it was initially uncertain how Ilkeston would cope and those fears were confirmed with the first chance of the game as Nick Rogan headed home John Shaw’s excellent left-wing cross to put the hosts in front.
But Ilkeston soon settled and played some confident and attractive football thereafter.
Williams was first called into action on 12 minutes when he pushed away Joe Maguire’s excellent header following Wilson’s deep free-kick, and then pulled off an even better save as he superbly tipped Gary Ricketts’ powerful drive over the top when it looked destined for the top corner.
Ricketts had earlier headed straight at the Marine custodian and Maguire then nodded wide as the Robins continued to create the better openings, the home side’s only other offerings before the break being a Shaun Dowling effort too high from distance and Rogan’s turn and shot being deflected just past the post.
But the Robins weren’t to be denied just three minutes into the second-half.
Curtis Thompson, impressive and composed throughout, fed Jack Eades on the right-hand touchline and his excellent cross to the back post found Jordan Smith and he nodded the ball down and past the reach of Williams to level the scores.
Russell Peel saw an effort saved six minutes later but then the home side took control of things and started to look the more likely winners.
Andy Fowler and Liam Rice both missed the target with good openings while Maguire was on hand to block a goalbound effort from Fowler in 75 minutes.
Their best chance to get the winner came two minutes from the end of normal time, when Karl Noon’s cross reached Fowler again in plenty of space but he lacked composure and blazed the ball over the bar from 12 yards out.
But more drama was to come deep into injury-time, as, out of nothing, Ilkeston’s Jack Watts produced a stunning long-range effort which was heading for the top corner until Williams again stuck out a glove to divert the ball over the bar and put the seal on a man-of-the-match performance.
Marine: 1 Callum Williams 2 Shaun Dowling 3 John Shaw 4 Philip Opojah (Matty Devine 61) 5 Danny Grannon 6 Paul Jones 7 Paul Brown 8 Robbie Lawton (c) 9 Andy Fowler 10 Nick Rogan (Liam Dawson 84) 11 Liam Rice (Karl Noon 72) Subs not used: Alan Burton, Michael Ordish
Scorer: Rogan 4
Ilkeston: 1 Chris Martin 2 Curtis Thompson 3 Steven Smith 4 Jack Watts 5 Joe Maguire 6 Jide Maduako 7 Jack Eades 8 Ryan Wilson 9 Gary Ricketts 10 Jordan Smith (Dereece Gardner 90) 11 Russell Peel (James Reid 77). Subs not used: Russell Cooke, James Cullingworth, Greg Pearson
Scorers: J Smith 48 Att: 338 Ref: Anthony Moore Star Robin: Curtis Thompson
by Mark Duffy