Ilkeston suffered a big blow in their title ambitions as fellow challengers Atherstone Town ran out 2-1 winners at the New Manor Ground this afternoon.
It took a dubious penalty and a bad error to help them achieve it, but in truth the Robins were far from at their best based on the standards they’ve set themselves, this result bringing a 12-game winning streak in the league to an end.
That had to happen eventually, but for it to be against a side up at the top with them and with an arguably bigger match at Walsall Wood next week will have riled boss Steve Chettle as well as the club’s fans.
Ilkeston began the game well with several promising attacks, their first effort of note coming on ten minutes when Lavell White cut in from the right and hit a left-foot shot straight at keeper George Woodward.
Atherstone’s Mitch Thomson did similar with a shot three minutes later, Ian Deakin saving comfortably, as he did from Ryan Quinn’s low strike soon afterwards.
Alex Marshall was then denied by a stunning point-blank save from Woodward on 17 minutes after Montel Gibson had found him eight yards out.
Chances dried up a little despite it being a very competitive game, Alex Naughton nearly opening the scoring for the visitors with a curling free-kick which dropped just wide of Deakin’s right-hand post.
But Naughton would be the man to open the scoring moments later. It was he who went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Chris Shaw, although he went down a little easily to say the least. Naughton picked himself up to slide the penalty home for a half-time lead.
Four minutes into the second-half it was 2-0 and a horror show for Shaw again. This time he was dispossessed by Mitch Thomson some 40 yards out and the Atherstone striker ran on to finish low past Deakin.
A route back into the game came on the hour mark, as a corner from the left was knocked back into the danger area by Jordan Wheatley and Montel Gibson sliced a volley into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Gibson flicked a header from another corner just over the top on 70 minutes as the Robins fought hard for parity, before Naughton headed down into Deakin’s hands at the other end.
Alex Marshall’s low effort wide was followed by Gibson’s header over the top, Ilkeston giving it plenty in the closing stages to take something from the game.
Tom Marshall wasn’t far away either, his dipping 35-yarder clipping the top of the crossbar on its way over the top, but that would prove the last opening for the Robins as they struggled to provide the killer pass or finish in the latter stages.
Ilkeston: 1 Ian Deakin, 2 Lavell White (Ben Fairclough 74), 3 Jamie Walker, 4 Chris Shaw ©, 5 Charlie Jemson, 6 Tom Marshall, 7 Micah Edwards, 8 Jordan Wheatley, 9 Alex Marshall, 10 Montel Gibson, 11 Billy Bennett
Subs not used: Martin Lench, Ben Morris, Elliot Hodgett-Young, Conor Green.
Atherstone: 1 George Woodward, 2 Darren Eggleton, 3 Adam Bilic, 4 Nathan Haines, 5 Mark Williams, 6 Scott Goodey, 7 Ryan Quinn (Harry Walker-Donovan 90), 8 Kyle Baxter ©, 9 Alex Naughton (Luke Shorthouse 79), 10 Mitch Thomson, 11 Danny Harris (Jonathan Gould 71)
Subs not used: Kurtis Mewies, Christian Mullings.
Ref: Simon Bickley
Star Robin: Montel Gibson