All things considered, this game will more than likely go down in the ‘point gained’ category for Ilkeston FC.
They led inside a minute but played the second-half with a man fewer than their visitors who might well have felt aggrieved not to have won in the end, their numerical supremacy not capitalised on particularly late in the game.
If judged on when they had 11 men, Ilkeston could perhaps have done more to build on their great start but Ashton are always a tough side to face and a point for Gavin Strachan’s young charges is no disgrace.
Some better decisions in key areas of the pitch may help them in games to come, the Robins far more effective when getting the ball on the ground and using the pace in the team to their advantage.
The hosts took the lead with their first attack. The ball was moved well across the pitch and when it reached Charlie Coulson on the left-hand edge of the penalty area, his weak shot was deflected up and over his own keeper by defender Jason Gorton and it was 1-0 after just 55 seconds.
Liam Marshall’s header from a corner was then straight into the arms of Ashton player-manager Paul Phillips and Dan Udoh volleyed over after debutant Jack Blake had released him down the inside right channel.
Ashton should have levelled on 19 as Matt Baker’s awful header back saw Dale Johnson nip in ahead of Evandro Rachoni but after Johnson’s shot had been blocked by a defender, the Brazilian goalkeeper did well to save low down from Aaron Burns’ follow up.
A good move ended witih Jonathan Edwards firing wide for the hosts on 25 while at the other end Rachoni did well to hold a Chris Baguley shot that was deflected en route to goal.
Another good opening came Ashton’s way on 37 as from a throw on the right, the ball found its way across to Chris Sutherland who was denied at point blank range by Rachoni.
Marcus Harness was Ilkeston’s brightest spark so far and he fired over from 25 yards on 40 minutes, but the hosts weren’t doing enough in an attacking sense and badly needed a second goal.
That became even more the case as Ashton got level three minutes before the break and it cost Ilkeston a player too. Joe Doyle and Adam Morning tangled as Morning entered the penalty area and the Ashton man went to ground after having given Doyle a hefty shove first.
The assistant referee decided it was a foul with ref Andrew Garratt, better known for running the line in the English Premier League, seemingly not fazed. Last man Doyle was sent off as a result and Baguley stuck the penalty away to bring the sides level at the break.
Morning saw a shot deflected wide in the early exchanges of the second-half, Johnson heading the corner past the post with Rachoni nowhere near the cross.
Liam Marshall then produced a fine last ditch tackle to deny sub Martin Pilkington a goal with his first touch, Gorton putting a free header wide from the corner.
Rachoni blocked well from Morning just after Ilkeston introduced debutant Lee Ndlovu to be the lone man up top in place of Udoh who had struggled without support.
Another clear cut chance came Ashton’s way with ten to go as Sutherland’s burst down the right ended with a cross that reached sub Jordan Bove unmarked at the back post but he shot straight at Rachoni from ten yards out.
Ashton would rue their wastefulness in the final third late on, several good openings blown by poor decision-making, Ilkeston ultimately holding on well to gain a worthy point.
Robins head coach Gavin Strachan: “The penalty decision was a defining moment in the game. We felt we could have gone on to win the game in the second-half by just fine tuning a few things, but being a man down changed everything although in the end we did really well to hold out for a draw.
“Joe (Doyle) said he was pushed first and that in turn caused him to bring their lad down. It’s frustrating but has to go down as a point gained in the circumstances.
“Lee Ndlovu came on and did really well and he’ll give us a great option up front. Fellow debutant Jack Blake also did well although didn’t really get the chance to exhibit his ability in terms of his passing which I think we’ll see more of in games coming up.”
Ilkeston: 1 Evandro Rachoni, 2 Joe Doyle, 3 Olly Luto, 4 Jack Blake, 5 Matt Baker, 6 Liam Marshall (c), 7 Marcus Harness (Luke Shaw 81), 8 Mike Williams, 9 Jonathan Edwards (Danny Gordon 45), 10 Dan Udoh (Lee Ndlovu 63), 11 Charlie Coulson
Subs not used: 16 Elliot Hodgett-Young, 17 Jahquil Hill
Ashton: 1 Paul Phillips, 2 Stephen Mason, 3 Cavell Coo, 4 Jason Gorton, 5 Joe Connor, 6 Chris Baguley, 7 Chris Sutherland, 8 Gary Gee, 9 Aaron Burns (Martin Pilkington 57), 10 Dale Johnson (Jordan Bove 75), 11 Adam Morning (Joel Melia 68)
Subs not used: 15 Kyle Jacobs, 16 Sam Egerton-Wilson
Ref: A Garratt
Star Robin: Evandro Rachoni