Ilkeston FC succumbed to a seventh league loss in a row as play-off chasing Ashton claimed all three points despite an improved and gritty performance from Andy Watson’s side.
The result leaves Ilkeston just nine points outside the relegation zone with seven games to play, Monday’s home game with fellow strugglers Mickleover Sports set to be a crucial game in the Robins’ season.
Ilkeston started with David Jones up top while Roy Lee was once again in behind. Curtis Burrows and Dexter Atkinson were on the flanks, Danny Gordon and Mike Williams occupied the holding role and there was also a place on the bench for the first time for Brandon Clarke.
Ashton started well as Adam Morning won an early corner, Chris Baguley delivered but Matt Baker was alert to clear at the near post.
The Robins were pressing high and looked organised defensively with good communication evident. Lee was denied a goal-scoring opportunity when Joe Connor executed a perfect tackle to deny him when clean through. A corner was given but no Ilkeston player could connect with Haydn Goddard’s kick.
United threatened in response, Liam Brownhill delivering a free kick which Connor glanced goalwards and Jamie Hannis was equal to it and held comfortably.
Atkinson nearly gave the Robins the lead as he showed good instincts to lob the on-rushing Paul Phillips but Brownhill cleared the effort off the line.
Hannis then produced a brilliant save to deny James Dean who collected a long goal-kick, the ball’s path was mis-judged by Baker and Dean seized on the ball but could only shoot straight at Hannis who reacted well.
But with 20 minutes gone, the hosts took the lead as Morning showed great opportunism to lob Hannis from range after the Ilkeston keeper saved an initial effort inside the box.
Baker could have equalised a few minutes later but his header from Goddard’s cross was straight at Phillips. Gordon then skewed an effort over the bar inside the box from a Burrows lay-off.
The hosts showed their clincalism and doubled the lead with 37 minutes gone. Dean forced a good stop from Hannis but he could only parry the ball to Baguley who hammered home.
Craig Lindfield then should have added to the lead but poked wide of the far post inside the box.
A flowing move towards the end of the half nearly brought a goal back, Burrows flicked a ball over the top for Lee inside the box but the striker flashed a volley the wrong side of the post.
The second-half once again saw improvement from Ilkeston as the wind and rain increased in intensity and the Robins hassled and harried.
Atkinson won a corner which was taken short to Goddard who whipped in a dangerous cross but again the hosts cleared.
Burrows then found a pocket of space on the edge of the box and found Lee who was denied by a good save by Phillips at the near post.
Ashton had chances too, Dean latching onto a rash Aiden Print clearance and firing over the bar then Hannis being called into action again, smothering Dean’s effort from a few yards out.
The introduction of Luke Shaw on 70 minutes, Brandon Clarke on 78 minutes and Max Thornberry on 82 minutes gave Ilkeston a different dimension. Clarke and Thornberry looked confident on the ball and contributed to a late flurry.
Ilkeston pulled one back on 87 minutes and it was a touch of class from Lee. He was found on the edge of the box before he checked inside and dinked a delightful finish over Phillips into the bottom corner.
Ryan Head could then have grabbed a late equaliser but he wildly hammered the ball over the bar.
However, it was a fine second-half display and overall performance from the visiting Robins who despite sinking to seven league defeats in a row can certainly look forward to the experience gained over these last few months.
Ashton: Paul Phillips, Stephen Mason, Liam Brownhill, Jason Gorton(c), Joe Connor, Mark Lees, Craig Lindfield, Cavell Coo, James Dean (Martin Pilkington 67), Chris Baguley (Reece Gray 77), Adam Morning (Matty Chadwick 62).
Subs Not Used: Alex Frost, Steve Halford.
Ilkeston: Jamie Hannis, Aiden Print (Brandon Clarke 78), Haydn Goddard (Max Thornberry 83), Danny Gordon, Matt Baker(c), Ryan Head, Dexter Atkinson, Roy Lee, David Jones (Luke Shaw 70), Michael Williams, Curtis Burrows.
Subs Not Used: Connor Walters, Ben Morris.