Top scorer Marcus Dinanga netted the only goal of the game on 64 minutes to give the Gladiators a derby win and a fifth successive league and cup victory at the New Manor Ground in the opening match of 2017.
The expected massacre of Ilkeston failed to materialise as the youthful Robins put up a spirited display, but although Matlock were made to work hard for their win, the result was just about right.
Visiting fans had more reason to celebrate their elevation into a play-off spot afterwards with the news the recalled Dinanga had secured a deal which would keep him at the DCJ Group Arena for the rest of the season.
Ilkeston had been thrashed 7-0 in their previous outing at Mickleover, but to their credit, their workrate ensured Matlock would not enjoy such an easy time and similar performances against opposition of lesser quality than the Gladiators might bring them greater reward.
The Gladiators handed a debut to former Ilkeston striker Anthony Dwyer who joined from Stafford Rangers last week, in place of Marc Newsham who picked up a knock in the win over Buxton. With another former Robins favourite Michael Williams starting a two game ban, Alex Pursehouse retained a midfield slot.
The Robins made a bright start forcing three early corners, the final one seeing captain Matt Baker head too high before Matlock’s opening opportunity in the ninth-minute saw the busy Niall McManus fire directly at Robins custodian Jamie Hannis.
Dinanga showed his class as a chip was turned over the bar by Hannis before the Gladiators had the rough end of two questionable decisions in the space of 90 seconds.
Firstly Dwayne Wiley’s header from a corner on the right was clawed out of the net by Hannis with the ball appearing to be a couple of feet over the line and then McManus rifled the ball past Hannis only for offside to be given against a fellow attacker.
A Ryan Head header was too high when Ilkeston responded on 25 minutes before the assistant’s flag stopped Ben Morris from finding the opener, sliding his shot past Phil Barnes but from an offside position.
The local rivals traded chances in the run up to the interval and while Ilkeston could be satisfied with their efforts thus far, having been five goals adrift in their Boxing Day drubbing at Mickleover at the half way point, clearly Matlock had to increase the tempo to break the Robins’ resilience.
Matlock brought on Rotherham loanee Mason Warren for his first appearance seven minutes after the restart and his smart passing soon had Matlock ticking over more efficiently and after a dearth of scoring opportunities he played a key role in Matlock’s winner. He found Ted Cribley who slipped in Dinanga to lift a calm finish past Hannis for his 18th goal of the season.
That could have been the signal for the struggling hosts to capitulate but both Morris and Luis Rose tested Barnes from long range, their cause though being hampered by a rash challenge by Max Thornberry on Dinanga with 11 minutes remaining, resulting in Thornberry receiving a second yellow card and an inevitable red.
Cribley and Dwyer could have sealed the points in the closing stages as Matlock gained three precious points in their push for a play-off spot from a game that proved to be far more difficult than some had probably envisaged.
ILKESTON: 1 Jamie Hannis 2 Connor Walters 3 Ryan Head (16 Ryan Wheatley 89)4 Max Thornberry 5 Matt Baker 6 Keenan Meakin (14 Tevahn Tyrell 58) 7 Luis Rose 8 Jaylon Bather 9 Tom Gamblen (15 Reece Horne 70) 10 Ben Morris 11 Brandon Clarke. Other subs: 12 Charlie Scanlon 17 Tristan Comery.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Liam Marsden 3 Jake Green (15 Kevin Grocott 71) 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Nico Degirolamo 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus 8 Alex Pursehouse (16 Mason Warren 52) 9 Anthony Dwyer (12 Adam Yates 89) 10 Marcus Dinanga 11 Ted Cribley. Other subs: 14 Jamie Yates 17 Marc Newsham.
REFEREE: Matthew Smith (Hinckley).
BEST GLADIATOR: Dwayne Wiley.