• Mark Duffy

Ilkeston overcome Nailers in top-of-the-table battle at packed NMG

NPL Midlands

Ilkeston Town 3

Fenton 60, Wakefield 71, Goodson 90

Belper Town 1

Margetts 33pen

League leaders Ilkeston Town won a crucial battle at the top of the NPL Midlands on New Year’s Day as they came from behind to beat second-placed Belper 3-1 in front of more than 2,000 fans.

The Robins did it the hard way after falling behind to a first-half Nailers penalty but a stirring second-half display saw them fight back to take the points and remain top of the tree as 2022 gets under way.

Belper were effective in spells but couldn't get a serious head of steam to do any more damage than their only goal, the hosts ultimately having too much fire in their bellies with a huge home support behind them.

Alex Troke saw an early shot deflected wide for the hosts, before at the other end Jonny Margetts’ lob found the roof of the net after Robins keeper Ross Durrant had punched clear a free-kick from deep.

Billy Bennett slides in. Photo by Mike Smith.

Zak Goodson then forced Ollie Battersby into a save low down after a good Robins move through the middle, before Remaye Campbell and Troke also saw the Nailers keeper clear after an error in the visitors’ defence.

Derry Robson cut inside and shot straight at Durrant on 20 minutes, Brodie Litchfield doing similar from distance ten minutes later.

But Belper led on 33 and it was from the penalty spot, as Margetts was deemed to have been fouled by Aman Verma and the Nailers striker picked himself to net the opener from 12 yards.

Ilkeston responded with a low Campbell effort which went just wide of the post, but that would be all they’d muster before the break arrived.

The hosts would, however, get level on the hour mark with the first real chance of the second-half. Kieran Fenton’s long range effort from a free-kick was blocked but he’d made his way into the penalty area by the time James Reid swung in a cross from the right and the Ilkeston skipper dived in to head home.

Ten minutes later the hosts led, Goodson doing superbly to get to the byline and pull back for Charlie Wakefield who slammed the ball home from close range.

Troke and then Jared Bird were inches away from a third as the Robins turned the screw, Bennett then showing real bravery to deny Margetts at close range as a cross came in, despite Belper claiming handball from the Robins man.

As Belper pushed forward for an equaliser, Ilkeston then got the killer third goal on 90 minutes as Goodson again did well on the byline, this time dispossessing Harry Goode and cutting inside to finish past Battersby and seal the points.