With all that had gone on at Ilkeston FC over the previous two weeks, it was perhaps inevitable they’d end up pulling a rabbit out of the hat like this one.
Salford City are throwing plenty of resources at getting promoted out of the NPL and have attracted lots of attention with their famous owners and a good FA Cup run, as well as having won 11 of their away games so far this season.
But Ilkeston, who had released eight of their first team squad just nine days before this game, put on a superb performance that made their opponents look very ordinary.
The win owed a lot to a high energy attitude and a change in shape that saw Dan Udoh play as a loan front man but with plenty of support from Mike Williams, Dexter Atkinson and Curtis Burrows.
And after a quiet opening where the visitors had held most possession but without really threatening Jamie Hannis’s goal, Ilkeston had their first chance when Williams beat his man on the right and fed Atkinson whose shot was deflected wide.
They didn’t have to wait long to open the scoring, however. After Salford had made a mess of clearing a corner, Danny Gordon was released down the left and his cross found skipper Matt Baker, still up from the back following the set piece, and he superbly fired home from the edge of the box with his left foot on 18 minutes.
Udoh then turned and fired just over the bar on 26 as Ilkeston continued to manage the game well, Gordon next to get an effort in which easily found the hands of keeper Jay Lynch.
Udoh was in the mood another fine turn this time saw him sting the palms of the City keeper who parried away for a corner.
Salford had created precious little, Richie Allen firing well wide on 38 minutes having not been picked up at a corner, also having to avoid a fallen referee in the process.
Hannis then got down to claim a Josh Hines header just before half-time, but the Robins got to the break deservedly ahead.
Williams’ burst forward early in the second-half saw him fire too high from a tight angle, but just three minutes later the hosts would be two ahead.
Williams found Atkinson in the penalty area and with the options of whether to shoot or pass, he chipped a delightful ball in to Curtis Burrows six yards out and his volley went in off the underside of the bar.
Sub Luke Clarke fired just wide for Salford aftert 67 minutes with what was their best chance so far after good work from Gareth Seddon, Atkinson’s spin and shot at the other end forcing a corner moments later.
Salford finally got a way back into the game on 71 minutes as Danny Webber finished well across Hannis and into the far corner.
They then nearly got level soon afterwards as Hine’s shot was blocked by Hannis and Webber couldn’t turn the ball in, Aiden Print and Hannis combining to claim possession.
Pace on the break was now Ilkeston’s best weapon and it nearly brought a third goal as Udoh struck a post having burst onto a Luis Rose pass. Atkinson was a viable option to pass to but Udoh couldn’t be blamed for having a go.
Defender Chris Lynch saw a header saved by Hannis as Salford put pressure on the home defence, Hannis then pushing a Seddon effort wide for a corner.
But despite Salford throwing everything at the Robins late on the youngsters held out well and a richly-deserved three points was their reward.
Ilkeston: 1 Jamie Hannis, 2 Luke Shaw, 3 Aiden Print, 4 Jordan Wheatley, 5 Matt Baker (c), 6 Haydn Goddard, 7 Curtis Burrows (Luis Rose 68), 8 Danny Gordon, 9 Dan Udoh, 10 Mike Williams, 11 Dexter Atkinson (Ben Morris 90)
Subs not used: Ryan Head, Connor Walters, Keenan Meakin
Salford: 1 Jay Lynch, 2 Chris Lynch, 3 Steve O’Halloran, 4 Tunji Moses (Luke Clarke 36), 5 Steve Howson, 6 Andy Dawson, 7 John Johnston, 8 Scott Burton, 9 Josh Hines, 10 Danny Webber, 11 Richie Allen (Gareth Seddon 46)
Subs not used: Evan Gumbs, Joe Mwaslie, Craig Dootson
Ref: Danny Gratton
Star Robin: Mike Williams