Whitby Town’s first-ever away victory over Ilkeston keeps them five points from the play-off places as the league’s bottom-two await.
Town take on strugglers Droylsden and Stafford Rangers in the next fortnight, with player-boss Darren Williams happy with his side’s decision-making after back-to-back clean sheets.
“We did the right things at the right times,” he said, after the Blues ended a run of six winless games in Derbyshire, at the weekend.
Williams picked an unchanged team after the previous week’s 0-0 draw with Marine, continuing his defensive midfield role.
However, it was the hosts who threatened first, dominating the first five minutes and spurning a great chance to grab the lead. Bermudian international Antwan Russell raced onto Lee Bullock’s awful headed-backpass, challenged and rounded the onrushing Shane Bland, only to poke into the side netting.
Town punished them immediately as Graeme Armstrong powered through a 50-50 tackle with left-back Ryan Wilson and immediately slammed past Rob Peet from the edge of the penalty area. Soon after, Steven Snaith flicked on for Armstrong to slide tamely wide, then Shane Henry drilled off target from distance.
The Blues seemed to be operating a shoot on sight policy with Lee Mason forcing Peet to fend away his edge-of-the-box effort on 15 minutes and seconds later, Armstrong’s snapshot from similiar range flew inches wide of Peet’s left-hand post.
The Robins then enjoyed their brightest spell as Russell’s stooping near-post header was cleared off the Town goal-line and eventually hooked clear by keeper Bland. Gary Ricketts, who clashed with Williams on the opening day, saw his drive toward Bland’s left-hand post, charged down and the impressive Chey Adams flashed a dangerous effort across the face of goal, but wide.
“You’re playing against a team at home so you expect them to get a few chances, but we defended very well and stuck to our task well,” Williams stated.
Town then ended the half on top with Peet getting down well to smother Adam Rundle’s fiery 20-yard shot and Mason drilled another piledriver just wide.
The former Blyth midfielder continued where he left off against Marine with a mazy run down the left wing which culminated in a cross-turned-shot that whistled across goal and just past Peet’s left-hand post.
Five minutes before the break, Snaith expertly released Mason down the right, he crossed early to the far post, where Armstrong glanced a diving header, narrowly wide.
“It was a blessing to go in only one-nil up,” Williams revealed. “It sounds silly, but it means they don’t get too lethargic or complacent”, he said of his players.
Four minutes into the second half, Ilkeston showed how narrow that lead was as Adams tricked his way down the right, sprinted towards the right-edge of the Blues’ penalty box and hammered wide of the top-right corner.
Within moments, the lively winger squared for Russell to miss out at the far post and Richard Pell nudged clear.
There was to be no late collapse for the Seasiders, this week, though as Mason’s mis-hit left-wing corner, was turned home at the near-post by Bullock.
Like last week, Williams took a well-earned breather, with 25 minutes remaining and this time had the bonus of introducing fit-again Tom Portas, in his place.
“It’s worked well in the last two games,” he said.
“We’ve got some quality players, especially in midfield, but not many are defensive-minded.”
Kev Burgess was also back from an injury lay-off, coming on for Bullock, with 13 minutes left and Nathan Mulligan swapped with Snaith, soon after. Mason’s free-kick from near the left touchline was then met by the head of Henry, with Peet clutching the ball, low to his left.
There was a late flurry for both sides as Bland blocked brilliantly from Russell’s free-kick, Adams powered just wide and Henry unleashed a 25-yard bullet, which grazed the home crossbar, right at the death.
“We played some great stuff,” Williams enthused.
“We created a lot of chances and maybe could’ve had a few more goals. It’s been a bit of a struggle squad-wise, so it’s fantastic to see Tom Portas and Kev Burgess back and we’ve still got Craig Farrell and Dave McTiernan to come back in.”
Ilkeston: Peet, Wright (Richards 57), R Wilson, L Wilson (c), Maguire, Storey, Adams, Chettle, Ricketts (Langford 57), Russell, Reid (Stokes 84). Subs not used: Hooton, Gordon.
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Robinson (c), Bullock (Burgess 77), Pell, Williams (Portas 65), Henry, Mason, Armstrong, Snaith (Mulligan 81), Rundle. Subs not used: Evans, Campbell (GK).
Ilkeston Town 0 Whitby Town 2