REPORT: Ilkeston Town 3-2 Coleshill Town - Robins labour to victory but remain top
It was far from a classic performance from the hosts, three goals in 12 first-half minutes perhaps papering over cracks that appeared in the rest of the match, but those goals ultimately proving the difference overall.
The alarming manner in which Ilkeston stalled in the second-half, allowing Coleshill to score twice and very nearly get a point, will no doubt cause concern to the Robins coaching staff as their side struggled to seriously threaten a fourth goal in response.
Having made seven changes to the team and included three new signings, including Saul Deeney in goal to replace the so far ever-present Ross Durrant and top scorer Zak Goodson dropping to the bench, it was a gamble that needed to pay off for boss Martin Carruthers and whilst the three points duly followed, they certainly weren’t achieved with the swagger of some other victories over this campaign.
But achieved they were, and six games remain for the Robins to maintain their position which now sees them on level points only with Chasetown who beat fellow contenders Halesowen on the same afternoon.
George Washbourne’s early curler was gathered by Deeney as the visitors began the game well, then opposite number Paul Hathaway saved down low from Aman Verma’s header following a left-wing corner.
Jack Thomas had a couple of early long range efforts too, the midfielder on his second Robins debut full of energy throughout the game and one of the better performers on show.
Another of them, Charlie Wakefield, saw Hathaway push a shot wide on 25 as Ilkeston huffed and puffed in trying to create in the final third, Montel Gibson next to have a chance but a last-ditch tackle denied him.
The Robins then struck twice in three minutes to gain control in dramatic fashion.
First, a corner from the left was met by Kieran Fenton’s powerful header down and then up into the roof of the net.
Two minutes later, Wakefield did superbly down the right to beat his man and get to the byline before chipping across for Gibson to head home from a yard or two out and double the lead.
Three minutes before half-time came a third, as this time Fenton struck from 25 yards with a free-kick which deflected off the wall and into the corner of the net to seemingly end the game as a contest.
But the visitors would find a gear they’d been missing in the second-half, and as Ilkeston wasted forays forward they were punished.
First Kai Tonge cut inside and drilled a low shot into the corner of the net on 62 minutes, then sub Joe Phillips’ strike from distance took a big deflection up and over Deeney and into the roof of the goal six minutes later.
Tonge headed wide with 13 minutes left as the visitors suddenly sniffed blood, the home fans notably quiet and nervous as they watched their side concede a plethora of free-kicks and corners that the Robins defence weren’t always convincing in dealing with.
A couple of late counter-attacks nearly killed the game off but again the final ball was lacking when it mattered, the referee’s whistle eventually greeted with great relief by most of the 904 in attendance who will no doubt be hoping there aren’t too many more nail-biters like this en route to what they hope will be promotion.
Ilkeston: Deeney, Verma, Bennett (Reid 84), Irvine, Maguire (Jemson 56), Fenton, Thomas, Bradley, Campbell, Gibson (Goodson 87), Wakefield
Not used: Troke, Durrant.
Coleshill: Hathaway, Hendrickson, Byrne (Marsilla 34), Rowe, Palmer, Doyle, Tonge, Willis (Phillips 58), Dainty (Hilton 88), Tomkinson, Washbourne
Not used: Askum