New boss Andy Watson couldn’t have wished for any better than three wins from his first three Ilkeston games although this was perhaps the least convincing of them.
That didn’t look like it would be the case at half-time with the Robins two goals to the good and seemingly in control, but a more naive display in the second period saw them hanging on towards the end and perhaps lucky to have taken all three points.
However, with the average age of the Ilkeston starting eleven being 18.4 and that number only lowering as subs appeared in the second-half, that alone makes any win at this level impressive.
Grantham arrived not only in the bottom four of the league table but also late for the game, traffic hold-ups forcing a 3.15pm start, but their overall display didn’t show too many signs that they’ll be among those to go down at the end of the season.
Marcus Harness had Ilkeston’s first notable effort, his free-kick from 25 yards far too high to threaten Jake Turner’s goal.
Grantham were inches away from the lead on 14 minutes when Michael Hollingsworth’s 35-yarder caught Ross Durrant out although the keeper got a slight touch of the ball onto the post and out for a corner, from which Gregg Smith headed straight at Durrant.
Joe Burgess headed a corner at Turner moments later, but it would be the 28th minute before Ilkeston would turn a good spell of dominance into a goal.
It was a fine move down the left channel which ended with Dexter Atkinson’s flick setting up Charlie Coulson who had time to control and finish low past Turner.
Grantham were still a threat and Ben Saunders volleyed inches wide a couple of minutes later, Matt Baker seeing a shot blocked by Turner at the other end after Udoh’s had also been parried.
A nasty injury then delayed the game as Grantham’s Lee Beeson was carried off after falling awkwardly, and it was in the time added on for that stoppage that Ilkeston would score their second.
Several corners had previously gone without reward but this time Coulson’s kick was flicked on by skipper Burgess and into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Atkinson saw a shot deflected over before the half was out, Burgess this time heading the resultant corner wide, but the Robins were comfortably two up at the break.
Sub Ben Harris flashed an early effort wide for the Gingerbreads in the second-half, Atkinson first to threaten for the Robins with a curler just past the post from outside the area.
After a spell of midfield battles Ilkeston had a let off on 68 minutes when the visitors won a penalty. Durrant came out to thwart Lee Shaw but brought him down instead, perhaps lucky to escape a yellow card. Up stepped Hollingsworth but Durrant saved low to his left to keep the two-goal lead intact.
The game went into another lull but Grantham then got back into it with a moment of class on 82 minutes. A long ball forward was pulled out of the air by Saunders who then lobbed Durrant perfectly to bring the visitors to within a goal. It was arguably one of the best goals seen at the New Manor Ground for some time.
Grantham’s Harris then fired straight at Durrant as the Robins struggled to get a grip on things, now with an even younger side out than they started with having brought on three debutants during the second-half in Lewis Walker, Ben Morris and Luis Rose, the latter replacing another new face in Rhys Dolan who looked assured throughout at left wing-back.
That left the hosts short on the experience normally needed to see games like this out and a few moments late on highlighted that fact, but see it out they did and another three points were secure.
Ilkeston: 1 Ross Durrant, 2 Marcus Harness, 3 Rhys Dolan (Luis Rose 80), 4 Joe Burgess (c), 5 Matt Baker, 6 Olly Luto, 7 Joe Doyle, 8 Eli Bako (Ben Morris 68), 9 Dan Udoh, 10 Charlie Coulson, 11 Dexter Atkinson (Lewis Walker 76)
Subs not used: Ryan Head, Evandro Rachoni
Grantham: 1 Jake Turner, 2 Danny Meadows, 3 Michael Emmott, 4 Sam Percicoe, 5 Brad McGowan, 6 Michael Hollingsworth, 7 Lee Shaw (Stefan Bilyk 80), 8 Rhys Lewis (c), 9 Gregg Smith (Jamie McGhee 54), 10 Ben Saunders, 11 Lee Beeson (Ben Harris 44)
Subs not used: Jamie Walker, Lawrence Gorman
Ref: S Eagland
Star Robin: Rhys Dolan