This was a breathtaking encounter which saw the teams earn a draw not of huge use to either in the title push but which was probably the right outcome.
Ilkeston responded well to a horrific opening ten minutes and the concession of a bizarre penalty kick to eventually take the lead, only to be pegged back late on by United’s regular super-sub Tom Greaves.
It was a terrific response to Saturday’s dour display at home to Grantham, the Robins once again proving they can often be more of a force when playing away at sides who are in the promotion battle with them.
And in the grand scheme of things, it could well be a point they’ll look back on as being crucial if promotion is ever secured.
United rocketed out of the blocks and were inches away from taking the lead just three minutes in as Shelton Payne’s free-kick from just outside the area struck a post and was cleared, another free-kick from a similar distance moments later put just wide by Craig Lindfield.
Payne fired just wide two minutes later but the hosts got the lead on nine minutes and it was in ridiculous circumstances.
A ball was played into the United box and the referee blew his whistle. Nobody claimed a foul and most assumed offside had been given, but all of a sudden referee Luke Watson insisted it was a penalty kick much to the bemusement of everybody in the ground. Later investigations discovered handball was the offence, but not one claim was made.
Jerome Wright took the kick and although Jordan Smith got a big touch on the ball it found the roof of the net.
Payne then fired into the side netting as United continued to dominate early on, only James Reid’s low shot straight at keeper Dave Carnell threatening the home goal in the opening 15 minutes or so.
Rory Fallon and Greg Daniels both saw efforts go close before the Robins were nearly level on 26 minutes when Callum Chettle’s shot from just outside the box was spilled by Carnell but the ball hit the post and was then cleared.
The Robins were far more in the game now and got level on 42 minutes with a superb team goal. Several quick passes eventually saw Reid get the ball out wide and when he found Mike Williams, via Jake Wright’s delicate touch, the Welshman’s first time shot from 25 yards arrowed into the bottom corner of the net.
Ilkeston deserved to go in level at the break having weathered a tough opening storm and ended the half the better side, David Morgan unlucky not to have won a free-kick late on after what looked a clear foul on the edge of the box.
After United had begun the second-half well it was Ilkeston who then took the lead.
Danny Gordon was fouled right on the edge of the box, the ref this time agreeing with Ilkeston claims, and when Morgan moved the ball left to Reid his placed shot beat Carnell and found the corner.
Jake Wright was then next to fall foul of Mr Watson not actually giving a foul despite appearing to be pushed by Payne as he entered the penalty area.
United huffed and puffed but largely got nowhere as Ilkeston defended well, but then along came United’s frequent secret weapon Greaves.
A regular scorer off the bench, he turned in a right wing cross on 84 minutes to bring the scores level and send the home fans into ecstasy.
Some late pressure was well resisted by the Robins defence, a point each perhaps the fairest outcome and one which Ilkeston can be proud of in tough circumstances.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015:
FCUM: 1 Dave Carnell 2 Liam Brownhill 3 Shelton Payne (Tom Greaves 84) 4 Dave Birch (c) 5 Lewis Lacy 6 Luke Ashworth (Chris Lynch 70) 7 Matty Wolfenden (Tom Brown 58) 8 Rory Fallon 9 Greg Daniels 10 Jerome Wright 11 Craig Lindfield. Subs not used: Callum Byrne, Joe Fox, Tom Brown Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith 2 Danny Gordon (Curtis Burrows 90) 3 James Reid 4 Lawrence Gorman 5 Joe Burgess 6 Jack Lane 7 David Morgan 8 Callum Chettle 9 Jake Wright (Eddy Samba 73) 10 Mike Willilams 11 Rai Simons (Brad Fortnam-Tomlinson 63). Subs not used: Matt Baker, Rob Duffy
Ref: Luke Watson
Star Robin: Mike Williams