Matlock Town 1 Ilkeston FC 1
Minds were probably elsewhere in both camps as the Gladiators and the Robins played out a tame league derby just three days before they were due to engage battle again in the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final.
Both managers named weakened line ups and it will be Ilkeston manager Kevin Wilson who would have felt the happier with 16-year-old substitute Akil Wright scoring an 89th minute equaliser to reward almost constant pressure in the final half hour from the Robins.
Mark Atkins handed James Travis a first league start at full-back, while on the opposite flank there was a rare start for Will Dennis.
Lee Featherstone switched to central defence alongside Oscar Radford while there was a debut in attack for another Matlock based youngster as Matt Andrews partnered Lewis McMahon.
In a first-half of relatively few chances it was a case of Ilkeston missing an excellent one while Matlock took theirs with a piece of exquisite individual skill from McMahon.
On eight minutes the Robins’ Dereece Gardner carelessly sliced his shot well wide after Nick Buxton had parried a long distance drive from James Reid into his path.
Four minutes later he was made to pay for that error as McMahon , with his back to goal, collected a header back into the penalty box from Gareth Davies before flicking the ball up and hooking an excellent shot over his shoulder and beyond goalkeeper Chris Martin.
Andrews’ debut came to a painful and premature end on 19 minutes when he limped off with hamstring trouble to bring on substitute Massiah McDonald.
Most of the rest of the half was played out in midfield and seemed more like a pre season friendly. The only threat at either end before the half time whistle came from an Ilkeston corner which saw Davies well placed to scramble clear.
A crucial moment in the contest came on 55 minutes when McDonald ran clear of the trailing Ilkeston defence but with only Martin to beat he shot wide.
Ilkeston should have been two goals down and to their credit they used this slice of good fortune to dominate most of the rest of the game.
They were camped in the Matlock half but came up against a stubborn Matlock defence in which both Radford and Featherstone, who was forced off through injury in the 85th minute, were outstanding.
Greg Pearson lifted an effort too high on 63 minutes before in a quick Matlock break, McDonald blazed wildly over the bar.
Danny Gordon was orchestrating Ilkeston’s best attacking moves from midfield but it looked increasingly likely that McMahon’s brilliant strike would prove to be decisive, particularly when Nick Buxton saved well from Kieran O’Connell in the 87th minute.
But there was still a tale to tell and it was a dream one for Wright who had replaced James Reid in the 85th minute.
Matlock failed to clear a corner effectively and Wright collected the ball to advance and lash a great finish past Buxton to the delight of the fantastic Ilkeston travelling support.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Nick Buxton 2 Will Dennis 3 James Travis 4 Martin Foster 5 Oscar Radford 6 Lee Featherstone (15 Matty Wilkinson 85) 7 Gareth Davies 8 James Ashmore 9 Matt Andrews (12 Massiah McDonald 19), 10 Lewis McMahon 11 Lavelle White
Other subs: 14 Ben Algar 17 Matt Leese
ILKESTON FC: 1 Chris Martin 2 Liam Mahon (16 Paris Periera 69) 3 Ellis Storey 4 Matt Baker 5 Russell Cooke 6 Greg Pearson 7 Danny Gordon 8 Callum Chettle 9 Dereece Gardner (Curtis Burrows 69) 10 Kieran O’Connell 11 James Reid (14 Akil Wright 85) Other subs:15 Jan Yeomans 17 Ryan Swift
REFEREE: D Richardson (Halifax) ATTENDANCE: 460 STAR GLADIATOR: Oscar Radford
Report by Ian Richardson