Just in case it was thought the time for giving and receiving gifts had passed for another year, Ilkeston were pleasantly surprised to see Rushall Olympic still in a generous mood in the West Midlands on Saturday.
Two of the three Robins goals were handed to them by defensive errors, although to say that was the sole reason for victory would he unfair as a fine second-half performance meant the points were more than deserved.
They were sturdy at the back and needed to be as Rushall threw plenty at them late on, but once the Robins scored a crucial opener on the stroke of half-time there was only likely to be one winner.
The blustery wind at Dales Lane did little to help either side, a bobbly pitch another factor to deal with.
Jake Heath put a low shot straight at Ilkeston keeper Jordan Smith early on, before the Robins were inches away from taking the lead as good work by Rai Simons down the left ended with his cross being met by Luke Shaw whose placed shot struck the foot of the post.
Rob Duffy and Rushall’s Heath saw half chances go close, before Josh Hawker nearly had the Pics in front when his effort from the edge of the penalty area struck the crossbar and rebounded back off Smith but nobody was able to net the rebound.
Some lax defending from Ilkeston nearly let Chris Lait in to score but he shot wildly over on 22 minutes, before Hawker had another good opening with a free-kick right on the 18-yard line, Smith on hand to tip his shot over the bar.
Mike Williams’ decision making then twice came under the spotlight just before the break, firstly after he’d charged down a clearance from his namesake Callum. The Robins man could probably have had a shot himself but instead squared for Duffy whose strike was blocked.
However, moments later he made amends but it was thanks to an error from keeper Cameron Belford that Ilkeston went in at the break in front.
Belford failed to deal with a wind-affected long ball and his clumsy clearance was blocked by Duffy who squared to Williams. This time the Welshman had time to control and pick his spot into an empty net from just outside the box despite a defender being in the way.
The Robins still had work to do in the second-half despite their lead but began it well with James Reid having a shot saved after a well-worked corner, Simons heading the resultant flag kick wide when in space.
Simons was then sent through onto a bobbling ball by Duffy but couldn’t get a good contact on the ball as Belford came out and the keeper cleared.
A similar chance then fell to Williams after being slipped in by Simons but Williams rushed his shot and Belford saved down to his left.
Most of the chances were now coming Ilkeston’s way, Duffy next to see a dipping volley go over the bar.
Their pressure finally paid off on 72 minutes. Reid swung in a corner from the left and skipper Joe Maguire got free to power a header past Belford.
It seemed it was game over but Rushall then replied within 90 seconds. Good work from sub Dele Adebola set up Aaron Williams who fired an unstoppable shot past Smith to reduce the arrears.
Williams then capitalised on another Rushall error but could only find the side netting from a narrow angle when a square ball to a team-mate might have been more welcome.
The points were sealed on 88 minutes and it was another gift from the home side. Caines’ mis-placed pass let in substitute Evan Garnett and he lobbed Belford with a shot that hit the underside of the bar and dropped just over the line, confirmation needed from the assistant referee that it was indeed a goal.
Late Rushall pressure to try and keep the game alive came to little as a sturdy Robins defence stood firm, and another three points were secured to take home to Derbyshire.
Rushall: 1 Cameron Belford, 2 Aris Christophorou, 3 Callum Williams, 4 Mitch Tolley, 5 Aaron Brown, 6 Gavin Caines (c), 7 Jake Heath, 8 Steve Leslie (Dele Adebola 65), 9 Aaron Williams, 10 Josh Hawker (Carl Palmer 81), 11 Chris Lait (Connor Deards 77)
Subs not used: Nathan Rooney, Josh Craddock
Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith, 2 James Reid, 3 Luke Shaw (Akil Wright 88), 4 Matt Baker, 5 Joe Maguire (c), 6 Jack Lane, 7 David Morgan, 8 Callum Chettle, 9 Rob Duffy, 10 Mike Williams, 11 Rai Simons (Evan Garnett 85)
Subs not used: Greg Simmons, Curtis Burrows, Danny Gordon
Ref: G Law
Star Robin: Rai Simons