Second-half fightback sees Leek topple Ilkeston
Ilkeston Town were second best against fellow promotion-hopefuls Leek Town on Tuesday the visitors recovered from being a goal down at half-time to take a crucial three points.
Despite leading through Alex Troke's first-half strike, Ilkeston couldn't build on it and, aided by a stunning Dan Trickett-Smith goal from inside his own half, Leek were more clinical and took the chances needed to secure the win.
It means the Robins go into the upcoming lockdown with work to do on the other side of it if they're to mount a title challenge.
Leek nearly took the lead eight minutes in with the first chance of the game, Trickett-Smith’s delicate chip from 25 yards coming back off the crossbar after he’d worked himself into some space.
But it was the Robins who led three minutes later. Ollie Brown-Hill was found down the left and he did well to get the ball across and into the six yard box where Troke was on hand to slide it home.
Trickett-Smith was just too high with another 25-yarder – this time a free-kick – soon afterwards as Leek responded well, the same player again letting fly on 23 minutes but his shot whizzing just past Ross Durrant’s left-hand post.
Tim Grice’s volley from a narrow angle then comfortably cleared the bar as Leek continued to hunt an equaliser, Ilkeston then going close when Zak Goodson flicked a Joe Wilson cross just over the top.
Riece Bertram was then inches away from a second when Brown-Hill’s free-kick from out wide was flicked on by a Leek defender just out of Bertram’s reach, although he got a slight touch meaning the ball went for a goal kick rather than a corner.
Brown-Hill then produced a stunning 30-yard volley but keeper Dan Roberts was able to tip his effort around the post.
Durrant then came to Ilkeston’s rescue when Grice was fed through the middle one-on-one but the Robins stopper blocked the shot with his legs and the hosts cleared to maintain the lead going into half-time.
Brown-Hill saw an early second-half effort gathered by Roberts, while Grice had a good chance blocked again by Durrant although a deflection also took the sting out of the shot.
Leek missed their best chance yet on 56, Will Saxon bursting into the box but firing his shot wide, but they were to level the scores in stunning style moments later.
A tackle in the centre circle saw the ball break to Trickett-Smith, and he immediately attempted to lob Durrant from inside his own half, the ball sailing over the keeper and into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Ilkeston responded well, Goodson forcing Roberts into a good save low down and from the resulting corner, Bertram flicked a header against the crossbar with his back to goal from just a few yards out.
Durrant was then caught out again five minutes later as he mis-judged a long ball forward, the ball bouncing over his head but Kieran Fenton on hand to tackle Grice at the last and deny a goal.
Leek wouldn’t be denied moments later, however, as a ball in from the left broke to skipper Marc Grocott on the edge of the penalty area and he fired low into the corner of the net.
It should have been three on the break after 70 minutes, Saxon again found wanting at the key moment as he should have scored when in space but blasted his shot wide.
Goodson was then denied by a fine challenge from Oliver Harrison which diverted his flick wide of the post, Trickett-Smith then seeing a diving header go over the bar at the other end.
But Leek were always dangerous on the counter as Ilkeston sought and equaliser and it proved key on 79 minutes as the third goal came, Trickett-Smith pulling the ball back for Grice who finished well first time from eight yards out.
Ilkeston’s hopes fizzled out after that, Saxon forcing Durrant into a late save as the game entered its final moments.
There was still time for Wilson to hammer home his first Robins goal in the dying seconds after a corner wasn’t cleared - his powerful strike finding the top corner - but it was too little too late for the hosts who ultimately hadn’t had the quality when it mattered, often enough.
Ilkeston: Durrant, Wilson, Bennett, Bertram (Marzano 78). Maguire, Fenton, Thomas, Cullingworth, Troke, Goodson (Lee 74), Brown-Hill.
Subs not used: Render, Tait, Stainsby.
Leek: Roberts, Bavanganga, Keenan, Grocutt, Harrison, Shotton, Trickett-Smith (Short 84), Reeves, Grice, Bell, Saxon (Kirby 89)
Subs not used: Ashman