This game wouldn’t have won any beauty contests, but the 1-0 victory at home to Sutton Coldfield will be very pleasing on the eye to Ilkeston’s fans.
A first win since October 22 was secured thanks to Dexter Atkinson’s early goal as new boss Shaun Goater’s reign began with a crucial three points in the Robins’ tough battle to survive in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
It was a scrappy encounter, with both teams wasteful in the final third and struggling to play much in the way of attractive football on a difficult pitch, but that will matter little to Robins fans who will simply be relieved to have ended a horrid run of 20 games without a win in all competitions.
There remains much work for Goater to do and new faces remain a must if Ilkeston are to stand a chance of getting more results like this, but a good start was crucial for Goater and it’s what he got.
It took just five minutes for the new era to produce its first goal and it went to the hosts.
The ball was gifted to Brandon Clarke in the centre circle and when he sent the pacy Atkinson in on goal who beat keeper James Wren to the ball and slotted the ball home despite the efforts of a defender on the line.
Luis Rose then volleyed wide a few minutes later as the Robins continued to start the game well, Sutton’s first real chance not coming until the 23rd minute when Aaron Birch fired too high from the edge of the box when he pounced on a loose ball.
They had an even better moments later when hesitant defending allowed David Howarth to get a shot in but under pressure from Matt Baker he skewed the ball just wide of goal.
The Robins’ next chance came after Jaylon Bather had won that rare event of a competitive drop ball in the centre circle. Atkinson received possession and powered forward but his shot was pushed wide by Wren.
Ryan Robbins, a starter just four days earlier for Coalville at the New Manor Ground, then got down the left but his ball across goal couldn’t find a telling touch and the teams went in at the break with Ilkeston leading a generally poor game.
Atkinson nearly repeated his early first-half goal with one in the second too when he was slid through on goal by Bather but his shot was parried by Wren and the visitors cleared.
Ben Morris then mis-hit a shot after Atkinson’s pull back, Bather next to have a go but his low shot going wide.
Robbins was one of Sutton’s biggest threats and volleyed low but straight at Jamie Hannis on 70 minutes, the young goalkeeper having replaced Dale Eve between the sticks just before the game started.
Ilkeston sub Anthony Dwyer lacked composure when presented with a chance soon afterwards, shooting too high when he should at least have hit the target.
Robbins then had a clear chance to level having shaken off Dante Leverock in pursuit of a long ball forward. As the ball dropped one-on-one with Hannis, Robbins’ low volley was stopped and held by the Robins keeper.
Howarth flashed an effort across goal as the visitors continued to plug away seeking a leveller, Robbins then volleying wide in stoppage time.
Robins sub Reece Horne had a golden chance to put the result beyond doubt when put through in the third minute of stoppage time, but his low shot struck the foot of the post and went wide.
There was still time for Sutton’s Matthias Curley to see red for bringing down Dwyer in the dying seconds when he was though on goal, but it made little difference as the final whistle was soon greeted with great joy by the home fans.
Ilkeston: 1 Jamie Hannis, 2 Max Thornberry, 3 Charlie Scanlon (Ryan Head 68), 4 Jaylon Bather, 5 Matt Baker (c), 6 Dante Leverock, 7 Luis Rose, 8 Danny Gordon, 9 Dexter Atkinson, 10 Ben Morris (Anthony Dwyer 63), 11 Brandon Clarke (Reece Horne 79)
Subs not used: Keenan Meakin, Tom Gamblen
Sutton Coldfield Town: 1 James Wren, 2 Matthias Curley, 3 Nathan Fox, 4 Aaron Birch, 5 Mark Oliver, 6 George Cleet (c), 7 Max Wright (Montel Gibson 58), 8 Sean Geddes, 9 David Howarth, 10 Josh Venney (Dilano Reid 74), 11 Ryan Robbins
Subs not used: James Beresford, Dominic Brown-Hill
Ref: Andrew Smith
Star Robin: Brandon Clarke