Match report: Belper Town 2-3 Ilkeston FC

For an hour of this game it looked like any Christmas cheer had firmly disappeared from the Ilkeston players and a shock defeat at bottom-of-the-table Belper Town was to be the order of the day.

Step forward Rob Duffy, who proceeded to hit a hat-trick inside ten minutes midway through the second-half to extend the Robins’ unbeaten run to ten games and complete a remarkable turnaround following a very stale first-half display.

Belper had new manager Jimmy Albans in charge for the first time and for a while it looked like the positive effect that can often have on a team would indeed prove enough to get the Nailers three points as they led 2-0 at the break.

But a much more energetic display in horrid conditions in the second period saw Ilkeston instead take the points and continue their promotion push.

After a cagey opening it was the Robins who created the first real chance, James Reid letting fly from 25 yards but keeper Jamie Green tipping the ball over the bar.

Rob Stevenson then got free three minutes later but having not got the ball under a great deal of control he could only get a low shot in that was deflected wide.

The hosts then went in front on 16 minutes when Ash Burbeary’s corner from the left was flicked on by Stevenson and centre-half Liam Goulding arrived to volley home from six yards out.

Belper were playing with the freedom and new lease of life a new manager can often bring although their second goal on 30 minutes came with a degree of fortune.

Keeper Jordan Smith’s clearance ricocheted off a defender and into the path of Stevenson who nipped in to beat Smith to the ball and score well from a narrow angle.

Burbeary then saw a shot deflected just over after another bit of slack defending, but the hosts arrived at the break 2-0 up and largely unscathed.

How things would change.

Ilkeston started the second-half much brighter with Luke Shaw firing wide following a good piece of inter-play with Ashley Hunter.

They were rewarded when a through ball deflected into the path of Duffy and he ran on to slide the ball past Green on 63 minutes.

The Robins were then level three minutes later. Hunter was sent through on goal but in trying to round Green was brought down by the Belper keeper, who most likely only escaped a booking as Hunter was going away from goal.

Duffy stepped up and saw his penalty get a big touch from Green but squeeze into the corner of the net.

The comeback was completed on 73 minutes as Duffy, who had been largely anonymous for the first hour, completed his hat-trick, turning the ball in from six yards out after Shaw had got down the right and put a low ball into the box.

Belper looked dead on their feet but at 3-2 still felt they had a sniff of a point, former Robin Chris Jones heading well wide in a good position with seven minutes to go and then seeing another effort go close moments later, again from a left-wing cross.

Hunter’s turn and shot nearly brought a fourth Robins goal on 89, but the damage had been done and the final whistle was greeted with huge celebrations from the Robins players and their large travelling support.

Belper: 1 Jamie Green, 2 Chris Jones (Matt Varley 90), 3 Aaron Pride, 4 Liam Goulding, 5 Phil Watt (c), 6 Richard Adams, 7 Michael Towey, 8 Steve Warne (Glyn Cotton 75), 9 Rob Stevenson, 10 Ashley Burbeary, 11 Ian Ross

14 Jon Froggatt, 16 Scot James, 17 James Martin

Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith, 2 James Reid, 3 Luke Shaw, 4 Matt Baker, 5 Joe Maguire, 6 Akil Wright, 7 David Morgan, 8 Callum Chettle, 9 Rob Duffy, 10 Mike Williams (Eli Bako 46), 11 Ashley Hunter

Subs not used: 12 Elliot Hodgett-Young, 14 Evan Garnett, 16 Rai Simons, 17 Danny Gordon

Ref: Nick Hopton (Alvaston)

Att: 556