Another win at home to Shepshed Dynamo on Easter Monday will all but confirm the title and promotion, with three points and a plus-14 goal difference currently separating the Robins and second-placed Chasetown with two games to play.
This was another victory of which Martin Carruthers’ men made hard work, recovering from a half-time deficit handed to the hosts due to a defensive error, but as with many recent wins the manner of them has proved insignificant compared to the rewards they’ve provided which now leave Ilkeston on the verge of glory.
Thomas assisted one goal then scored the other, similarly to the previous win against Daventry when he did it the other way round, his return to the NMG having proved a master-stroke given his excellent displays since.
But the whole team deserve credit for grinding out results under huge pressure and this one was no different.
Montel Gibson put an early chance over the top from an angle when it looked a better option to square for a team-mate three minutes in.
Gibson then shot straight at keeper Sam Lomax on 18 minutes, before Kieran Fenton’s 25-yard free-kick was just wide of the target moments later.
Liam Lockett had the hosts’ first moment of promise on 23 with a long range strike which dipped just over the crossbar, but the hosts would lead thanks to an error on the half-hour.
Jared Bird badly mis-hit a back pass to Saul Deeney who in turn couldn’t get enough of a touch to clear the ball under pressure from Ryan Nesbitt, the United striker then able to turn and score into an empty net leaving Bird to cut a devastated figure as he collapsed on the artificial turf, an unfortunate moment for a player who has impressed when involved throughout the campaign.
Ilkeston had the ball in the net with the last kick of the half, Gibson heading home from a corner, but the goal was surprisingly disallowed for a push on Lomax before the ball had got to the Robins man at the back post, somewhat to the anger of the visiting support behind the goal given the apparent lack of an appeal from anyone in a green shirt.
Eesa Sawyers’ early second-half free-kick was just wide for the hosts, then Stern Irvine deflected a cross back to Deeney that could easily have gone anywhere off the defender’s boot.
Former Robin Harry Wakefield was then high and wide on the hour as Ilkeston still struggled to create much in the way of chances themselves.
But their goal finally came on 64 when Ollie Brown-Hill and Thomas worked together on the left and the latter swung in a perfect right-footed cross that was headed home by Remaye Campbell six yards out.
Gibson volleyed wide two minutes later as the Robins were visibly lifted by the goal and United dropped deeper, although Lockett’s free-kick at the other end had to be gathered by Deeney.
Sub Dan Bradley then fired just too high after Campbell’s knock back with 12 minutes to go, but they weren’t to be denied on 85 minutes.
A ball into the area saw Campbell and then Billy Bennett scramble to keep possession and when the ball reached Thomas six yards out he turned and placed the ball into the corner of the net to spark delirium amongst the large number of fans who had travelled from Derbyshire.
The Robins then saw things out with relative ease despite having to endure seven minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle greeted with huge joy from all of those of an Ilkeston persuasion as they now look ahead to what they’ll hope will be a magical Monday.
Bedworth: Lomax, Wells, Rowe, Parrott, Barnett ©, Bennett, Sawyers (Murphy 86), Blackmore, Nesbitt, Wakefield (Jones 86), Lockett.
Not used: Baynham, Sanderson.
Ilkeston: Deeney, Brown-Hill, Bennett, Bird, Irvine, Fenton ©, Troke (Goodson 54), Wakefield (Bradley 46, Reid 88), Campbell, Gibson, Thomas
Not used: Jemson, Carvell.