Ilkeston have had a season of many ups and downs and several ins and outs but also a lot of games where their young players have shot themselves in the foot - particularly at home.
This was game was precisely one of those. The inability to even look like killing the match off against a Grantham side reduced to ten men just before half-time proved costly to the tune of two points as a stoppage time penalty earned the visitors a draw they’d deserved despite their numerical disadvantage.
The fact they deserved it was more a fault of Ilkeston’s than a credit to themselves, as a second-half display from the Robins lacking any kind of tempo or desire left many fearing the frequent and perhaps inevitable sucker-punch which eventually came too late for a response.
And after such an impressive win at Blyth Spartans just four days earlier, it made the pill that much harder for Robins fans to swallow as the promotion race hots up.
Grantham were first to show with Rhys Lewis firing straight at Jordan Smith four minutes in, Eddy Samba then firing at Gingerbreads stopper Jake Turner after James Reid’s long ball had found him in the penalty area.
The Robins then took the lead in more than controversial circumstances on 14 minutes.
Jake Wright, who was offside but not interfering when a ball was played forward, was only flagged when he did get the ball via a Grantham head. Everybody stopped except Wright and Mike Williams who netted an open goal from Wright’s square pass.
Grantham fumed, referee Mr Smart consulted his assistant but still gave the goal. Later discussions decided the assistant was probably wrong for flagging at all, Grantham punished for not playing to the whistle. Nobody seemed to know but play resumed with the Robins a goal ahead.
Williams hit the side-netting soon afterwards whilst Wright continued to be a nuisance and fired straight at Turner, David Morgan then testing Turner too from distance but his effort dealt with comfortably.
The hosts remained in control, Callum Chettle firing too high after a corner hadn’t been cleared, before Grantham’s cause was made that bit harder by a red card on 38 minutes.
Danny Meadows had already been booked for an earlier foul on Wright so when he flew in again on the Robins striker there was little option for Mr Smart other than to send him for an early bath. It was a tackle that could quite easily have seen Meadows get a straight red on its own.
The Robins began the second-half well, Williams forcing Turner to push his half volley wide in the early moments and Reid then striking a shot just past the post moments later.
At the other end, Scott Hellewell’s header from a free-kick was held by Smith on 52 minutes, then Samba received the ball from a Sam Purcicoe error but after cutting inside could only fire over the top.
Ilkeston were struggling to kill Grantham off, not really building up any tempo or pressure and when they did get forward, the ball wasn’t sticking or poor decisions were being made.
They nearly paid the price on 76 minutes when sub Liam Hurst’s chip hit the crossbar after he made space just outside the penalty area, a real warning to the hosts who were sleepy to say the least in the second-half.
Lee Ndlovu got on the end of a long ball on 89 and his weak header was gathered by Smith, but the killer moment would come, once again, in stoppage time.
Ilkeston made a total hash of clearing a free-kick into the box and when Williams went up for a header with Ben Saunders he clumsily fouled the Grantham striker and a penalty was given.
Former Ilkeston loanee Wholey stepped up to slot the 93rd minute penalty into the net and with no time to recover Ilkeston only had themselves to blame for two crucial points dropped.
Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith, 2 Danny Gordon, 3 James Reid, 4 Lawrence Gorman, 5 Joe Maguire (c), 6 Jack Lane, 7 David Morgan, 8 Callum Chettle, 9 Jake Wright, 10 Mike Williams, 11 Eddy Samba (Rob Duffy 77)
Subs not used: Matt Baker, Eli Bako, Curtis Burrows, Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson
Grantham: 1 Jake Turner, 2 Sam Purcicoe (c), 3 Jake Wholey, 4 Liam Kay, 5 Scott Hellewell (Michael Emmott 71), 6 Lee Miveld, 7 Danny Meadows, 8 Rhys Lewis, 9 Liam Read (Liam Hurst 46), 10 Ben Saunders, 11 Lee Ndlovu
Subs not used: Connor Johnson, Will Rawdon, Luke Johnson
Ref: E Smart
Star Robin: Callum Chettle