Ilkeston’s season belatedly got underway at the New Manor Ground on Saturday but Ashton United were in no mood to ease them in gently.
The Tamesiders went away with all three points as Ilkeston failed to stamp any real authority on the match, and although Robins boss Paul Holland was keen not to allow any excuses before this game, the lack of match practice inevitably proved a key factor in them losing it.
Ashton played well and deserved the three points, Ilkeston in particular lacking much prowess in the attacking third and creativity in midfield.
But given recent events this was always going to be a tough task for Holland’s men to take on, and there were still signs throughout that once their sharpness has improved and perhaps more additions to the team have arrived, points won’t be too long in coming.
Indeed, Ilkeston began well and good interplay between Luis Rose and Mark Shelton on the edge of the penalty area ended with Rose shooting low at keeper Paul Phillips in the third minute.
Hesitancy at the back from Robins defender Jak Kenworthy then gave Lee Gaskell the chance to try and lob keeper Ross Durrant but his effort dropped just wide, the visitors starting to enjoy the better of the possession in the early stages.
One of seven Ilkeston debutants, Anton Brown, then had an opening 12 minutes in but was tackled as he got his shot in and that allowed the ball to roll into Phillips’ hands; half-hearted appeals for a penalty being ignored by the officials although it looked a mis-timed challenge.
After a quiet few minutes with neither side creating many chances, a good move saw Ashton’s Adam Mather break into the box but both of his attempted shots were blocked by Durrant.
Rose was close again from 25 yards and seemed to be the Ilkeston player most likely to make something happen, although on 32 minutes the opener nearly came from an unlikely source.
Rory Coleman floated a corner in from the left and Luke Foster’s header was deflected onto the crossbar by defender Tunji Moses who was stood on the goalline, the ball then cleared from danger.
Gaskell then miscued a good chance wide at the other end as the two sides continued to give as good as they got.
The woodwork shook again four minutes before the break, Ashton’s Chris Baguley’s free-kick from the inside left channel looking destined for the top corner of the net but the crossbar intervened.
The opening goal eventually came as the clock ticked over to 45 minutes and as the rain teemed down. The ball was worked into the penalty area by Ashton and when Gaskell’s shot was parried by Durrant, Mark Lees was left with the easy task of finding the net from a couple of yards out.
After a slow start to the second-half, Baguley placed a shot just wide of the post for Ashton on 58 minutes, but their second goal would follow three minutes later.
Coleman fouled Jack Dorney out on the right and Baguley’s free-kick was headed in by skipper Jason Gorton when Durrant came out but didn’t get there in time. Gorton was then booked for a fracas that followed after the goal.
That left Ilkeston a considerable mountain to climb. Dwyer found the hands of Phillips on 69 and Shelton did similar moments later, but Ilkeston were lacking any real quality in front of goal and much in the way of creativity to help them.
Dwyer was doing his best, a skilful run down the right ending with a ball across goal with which sub Ben Morris was inches from connecting.
But that would be as close as they got to registering as Ashton saw the game out well, Ilkeston left to try and recover in time for the short trip to Matlock on Bank Holiday Monday.
Ilkeston: 1 Ross Durrant, 2 Jak Kenworthy, 3 Rory Coleman, 4 Danny Gordon (Dexter Atkinson 53), 5 Matt Baker (c), 6 Luke Foster, 7 Luis Rose 8 Mark Shelton 9 Anthony Dwyer 10 Anton Brown, 11 Haydn Goddard (Ben Morris 65)
Subs not used: Connor Walters, Ryan Head, Reid Owen
Ashton: 1 Paul Phillips, 2 Richard Smith (Ryan Crowther 77), 3 Adam Mather, 4 Jason Gorton (c), 5 Alex Frost, 6 Tunji Moses (Cavell Coo 57), 7 Jack Dorney, 8 Mark Lees, 9 Daniel Wilkins, 10 Lee Gaskell, 11 Chris Baguley (Joe Connor 70)
Subs not used: Stephen Mason, Jody Banim
Star Robin: Anthony Dwyer