This game had ‘end of season dead rubber’ written all over it but at least provided the Robins with a third win in four games as they continue to finish the campaign on a high.
Neither side had anything other than pride and position to play for and that was reflected in a match that never truly got going until its last quarter, goals from Dexter Atkinson, Danny Gordon, a penalty from Roy Lee and a first Robins goal from Tevahn Tyrell doing the damage.
The last few games have seen plenty more to suggest some of the young Ilkeston players have what it takes to hold their own at this level than the run of nine straight defeats had done previously, and although much will need to change if the Robins are to produce anything like a promotion challenge next year, the roots from which to grow a more competitive side over the course of the summer are undoubtedly there.
The first effort of note came 11 minutes in when Rushall’s Kris Taylor fired in a shot from distance but it rolled just wide of Jahquil Hill’s left-hand post.
The opening goal then arrived three minutes later and it was a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous. A superb passing move cut Olympic open but when Luke Shaw’s low cross found the hands of keeper Kieran Preston on the ground it looked like the danger was over. Preston, however, let the ball squirm out of his hands and Atkinson nipped in to control and then fire in off the far post from an acute angle.
Rushall should have levelled on 20 minutes when a mistake this time from Hill gave Alex Reid a chance but he shot straight at the Bermudan stopper who gathered easily.
It took a while for the next real opening to arrive as the game really struggled to get out of second gear, Taylor’s shot parried well by Hill as Rushall sought an equaliser.
Hill then produced a fine double stop to deny the visitors moments later with the last chances of the first-half, as first Luke Benbow and then Josh McKenzie saw efforts well saved as the Robins defence made an almighty hash of clearing the ball.
Atkinson volleyed into the side netting early in the second-half as Ilkeston looked to build on their lead, Michael Townsend then putting a free header over the top from a Rushall corner two minutes later.
The Robins then had a glorious chance for a second denied as Preston made up for his earlier error with a fine stop to deny Haydn Goddard who was put through one-on-one by Curtis Burrows.
Matt Baker headed the resulting corner against the crossbar, but it wouldn’t be long before the second Ilkeston goal would arrive.
Gordon had been pulling many a string in midfield and on 64 minutes he received the ball 30 yards out, advanced forward to the edge of the penalty area and placed a side-footed shot past Preston and into the corner of the net.
Benbow headed just over the bar at the other end to remind Ilkeston that Rushall were still a threat, Gordon close to his second at the other end but putting the ball wide from Atkinson’s pull back.
The third goal arrived on 82 minutes and it came thanks to another calamity from Preston. This time he made a mess of a back pass and sub Roy Lee stole the ball from him before being instantly brought down by the Rushall keeper who was then sent off. Lee picked himself up to net the spot-kick past right-back Aris Christophorou who had taken over in goal.
Rushall had deserved something from the game and got it when sub Andre Brown burst through to pull a goal back within a couple of minutes.
Christophorou got down well to save from Atkinson on 88, but the win was rounded off moments later when sub Tyrell produced a fine solo effort to register his first Robins goal having only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes.
Ilkeston: 1 Jahquil Hill, 2 Aiden Print, 3 Ryan Head, 4 Max Thornberry, 5 Matt Baker (c), 6 Haydn Goddard, 7 Dexter Atkinson, 8 Danny Gordon, 9 Curtis Burrows (Roy Lee 71), 10 Luke Shaw (Tevahn Tyrell 84), 11 Luis Rose (Brandon Clarke 79)
Subs not used: David Jones, Connor Walters.
Rushall: 1 Kieran Preston, 2 Aris Christophorou, 3 Nathan Fox, 4 Marlon Walters (Jamie Spencer 61), 5 Jack Duggan (c), 6 Michael Townsend, 7 Jake Heath (Mitchell Tolley 61), 8 Kris Taylor, 9 Luke Benbow, 10 Josh McKenzie (Andre Brown 61), 11 Alex Reid
Subs not used: Daniel Wilkinson, Gavin Caines.
Ref: Duncan Street.
Star Robin: Danny Gordon.