Against a mid-table Yaxley side who played the entire second-half with ten men, the Robins laboured to a victory only secured in the first minute of second-half stoppage time thanks to substitute Remaye Campbell’s header that sent nearly 1,000 Ilkeston fans into ecstasy as their team remained top of the league with five games to go.
It all left manager Martin Carruthers once again questioning after the game as to whether his heart can take much more of what his team has put him through at times this year, and whilst all will no doubt be forgiven if the Robins go on to take the title and/or promotion, like many of an Ilkeston persuasion he’ll be keen to see them do it without the scares of recent games.
After starting both halves well, a lethargy appeared to set into the home side for the remainder of each that saw them struggle to break their visitors down, but patience is a virtue and although they’ve had to wait until very late on in games to win them on a few occasions this season, including the reverse fixture at Yaxley, Ilkeston got their goal in the end.
Montel Gibson volleyed at keeper Will Lakin early on as the Robins began well, the same player’s looping shot inches too high six minutes in after a flick on by Alex Troke.
Charlie Wakefield fired a 25-yarder just wide on 15 minutes as Ilkeston continued to dominate, but they then lost what momentum they’d started with as chances dried up and sloppiness in possession took over.
Matt Sparrow had Yaxley’s only chance of the half with a long range strike that was easily gathered by Saul Deeney, before they were then reduced to ten men in first-half stoppage time when Josh Moreman went in with a late and reckless challenge on Stern Irvine from behind which saw him shown a straight red card.
The second-half saw Ilkeston continue to have most of the ball, Troke flicking a header wide from a deflected Gibson shot on 54 minutes, then the energetic Jack Thomas’s drive tipped over by Lakin two minutes later.
Ollie Brown-Hill then saw Lakin push a shot from distance away from danger as the Robins started to turn the screw, Wakefield also seeing an effort pushed wide midway through the half.
But Ilkeston then began to freeze at the key moments once again as time ran out, much to the frustration of their large home support.
Kieran Fenton saw a header loop just to high on 84 as the Robins finally found another gear in the closing stages, then Campbell headed a golden chance wide from Aman Verma’s cross as the game entered stoppage time and it looked like the opportunity was gone.
However, in the 91st minute, James Reid’s deep cross from the right was nodded back across the six-yard box by Gibson and Campbell nipped in to nod home from a couple of yards out.
There were still five or so minutes to play, it turned out, such had been Yaxley’s lack of urgency to get on with things in their hope of an unlikely point, something they still nearly got but for Deeney managing to hold on to a near post header from a corner as the final whistle approached, it then being met with great relief from all in red and white.
Ilkeston: Deeney, Verma, Brown-Hill (Bird 58), Bradley (Reid 78), Irvine, Fenton, Goodson, Thomas, Troke (Campbell 58), Gibson, Wakefield
Not used: Jemson, Durrant.
Yaxley: Lakin, Duncliffe, Rowell (Bucciero 80), Tinkler, Salmon, Peters, Sparrow, Hook, Waumsley (Battersby 74), Cotton (Tsaguim 74), Moreman.
Not used: Nolan, Gothard