Managers often learn more from an opening day fixture than any other and this encounter will have given Gavin Strachan a big plateful of food for thought.
After coming out of the blocks in dazzling style, this Robins display fizzled out far earlier than the early evidence suggested it would, as Skelmersdale produced a second-half turnaround that was aided by ill discipline from a new Robins signing who should know better.
Skelmersdale are always a tough side to play and although their first-half display was hampered by a well-organised Robins back line, the second saw their superior experience shine through as Ilkeston’s youngsters found out about life at this level the hard way.
It won’t need widespread changes for Ilkeston to put right, but a little less naivety and a lot more creativity will be the order of the day if they are to make any kind of promotion challenge this season.
Ilkeston were relentless in the opening minutes with Marcus Harness and Charlie Coulson both seeing shots saved within seconds of each other after Eli Bako had gone to ground under a challenge in the penalty area.
It didn’t take long for the goal to arrive though as Dan Udoh’s break forward ended with him finding Harness ten yards out and he fired a low shot across keeper Martin Fearon and into the far corner.
Lee Hughes was putting himself about, sometimes too much in a physical sense as a couple of controversial incidents saw him firstly booked after apparently using his elbow in an aerial challenge and then seemingly getting away with sending Phil Mooney to the turf off the ball, the lack of a witness wearing black probably saving him from an earlier bath than he eventually got.
He nearly scored early on too as his lob was superbly tipped over by Fearon. Had it found the net the outcome of the game could well have been vastly different.
That’s because chances then dried up and the tempo in Ilkeston’s play slowed a little after the initial burst, perhaps understandably, but they still played some good stuff up until half-time without carving out too many openings, whilst at the same time giving the visitors no time on the ball.
The second-half was a different story.
Skelmersdale had wisened up to what Ilkeston were doing and were in front before 12 minutes of the half had been played.
After Evandro Rachoni had spilled a Louis Corrigan free-kick wide of the post, Shaun Holden’s cross moments later was headed home well by Alan Burton.
Then within two minutes the game had been turned on its head as Holden’s free-kick was swung in from deep and Danny Mitchley had all of Derbyshire to play with as he found space to glance the ball wide of Rachoni and into the net.
Ilkeston were suddenly lacking ideas and anything like the vibrancy of early on. Attacks met dead ends and frustration started to show.
That was particularly the case with Hughes, who after a couple of close shaves finally got his marching orders after going in heavily on Burton and leaving referee Mr Bell little choice but to send him off for a second yellow card.
That left Ilkeston even more bereft of options and before too long they were 3-1 down as Mitchley did well to get to the byline and square for Burton who turned in from six yards out.
That was that, as Ilkeston had no further answers and were left with plenty of lessons to learn from what had been a sobering opening day.
Robins head coach Gavin Strachan said: “Our naivety has cost us today. We needed a second goal and I was getting edgy the longer we waited for it.
“I knew we wouldn’t be able to sustain the great start we got but it would be a question of how we’d cope when the going got tough, which it did and we struggled, particularly conceding two quick goals and then going down to ten men. Our inexperience showed.
“Lee (Hughes) will know he’s made a mistake today and will hopefully learn from it. More of a concern to me was that we lacked ideas going forward at times and kept trying to produce ten passes en route to goal when fewer might have sufficed.
“We’ve learned a lot from this. Skelmersdale did well to turn the game around and their experience told but there is a long way to go and we now look forward to going to Grantham on Tuesday.”
Ilkeston: 1 Evandro Rachoni, 2 Joe Doyle, 3 Olly Luto, 4 Eli Bako, 5 Matt Baker, 6 Liam Marshall, 7 Marcus Harness, 8 Kingsley Williams (Mike Williams 70), 9 Lee Hughes, 10 Dan Udoh, 11 Charlie Coulson (Luke Shaw 69)
Subs not used: Elliot Hodgett-Young, Danny Gordon, Jahqueil Hill
Skelmersdale: 1 Martin Fearon, 2 Phil Mooney, 3 Shaun Holden, 4 Rob McIntosh, 5 Tony Randell, 6 Alan Burton, 7 Anthony Hickey, 8 Paul Woolcott, 9 Danny Mitchley, 10 Gerard Kinsella (Sam Staunton-Turner 90), 11 Louis Corrigan
Subs not used: Tom Hardwick, Kenny Strickland, Dean Astbury, Tony Donaldson
Star Robin: Marcus Harness