County 1 Ilkeston FC 0 ( F.A Cup 3QR) 11 October 2014

County did just enough to ease past Ilkeston FC today at Edgeley Park- a single goal from substitute Scott Spencer being enough to see them progress in the F. A. Cup ,against a side that were a credit to the Northern Premier League.
Yes.....Ilkeston battled throughout the 90 odd minutes, hitting a post late on ,and otherwise consistently getting in the way of any plans County had in mind for them, cheered on by between 200 and 300 from Derbyshire who must have left E.P. disappointed but proud of their teams performance. 

Ilkeston supporters.....

Their flags ( more pics in additional gallery....)

Top men for Ilkeston, for me, were Luke Shaw and Kieran Wallace who constantly got forward to good effect down the flanks, leaving David Morgan to deal with the engine room, which he did particularly well, still driving his team forward deep into added time.
For their part, County kept faith with Matthew Todd keeping him in after his excellent display at Oxford on Tuesday, and brought Jordan Fagbola in for a rare start in the centre of the defence, and both these youngsters did well...Toddy particularly so, running off with the sponsors M.O.M award .In general though, with Ilkeston steadily building up a head of steam as the game progressed, the defence and midfield found themselves having to work really hard to keep the visitors quiet.
In the end, one chance neatly taken, was all it took to win the game, and it was County who did the taking as a cool finish from Spencer saw off Ilkeston`s brave challenge sending  us through to the next round and another welcome pay day.   

Saluting Matt Woods !
Before the start Kenny Boxhall led the crowd through a minutes` applause in memory of the late great Matt Woods. This was beautifully observed by both sets of supporters, and entirely in keeping with the sad occasion!
Into the game then and County had a back five on show of Todd, Lees, Gregson, Fagbola and O`Halloran, and the early minutes saw the blues testing Ilkeston out through the precociously talented Todd and Sharp, but without noticeable success. A Milligan free kick, enlivened by another Todd intervention, did put the visitors under pressure. Kieran Wallace dealt coolly with this threat, but O`Halloran ( who spent much of the afternoon dilligently careering forward in Gareth Bale mode)fed a neat ball inside to Baker whose shot shaved the bar on its way to the Railway End.

Stephen O`Halloran.
All this looked promising for County and more so as a snap effort from Sharp was charged down by Joe Maguire, and another from the same forward flashed across the face of goal before going out, from a pass from Todd.
It was about 10 minutes into proceedings before anything of note came back from the Robins. It was a throw from Wallace that started it off, and a shot from Morgan that finished it, but the ball whistled the wrong side of the angle of bar and post for Kevin Wilson`s side, and it stayed 0-0.
A Kieran Wallace throw......

Sharp then latched brilliantly onto Milligan`s pass, and in a trice he had cut inside past Luke Shaw. He might have shot.....but instead he opted to slip a ball of slide rule proficiency, across the box to where Churchman lurked. Churchman duly got the ball, but then sent the poorest of shots crashing into the score board!   
Play after this was for a time quite forgettable- both sides pecking away at the other with scant success, but 18 minutes in, and a chance looked to be in the offing for Ilkeston, as Kane Richards slipped clear of his marker just outside the box. Alarm bells were ringing as the forward advanced a pace or two, and suddenly started clanging louder still as Churchman upended Richards on the edge of the box. 

Oops , down goes Kane Richards courtesy of Chris Churchman.
It was `sharp intake of breath’ time as the referee reached into his pocket. I thought a red was not wholly unlikely, but the referee produced yellow, and young Chris was a lucky lad! Wallace`s free kick was a decent effort but a yard wide so again County could breath easily once more.

County attack.
Less than a minute later the action switched ends, and Jordan Smith the Robins` keeper, was hustled into error by Dennis, who clearly was intent on adding to his already burgeoning goal tally. The ball ran clear to Milligan, but with the goal gaping, he sent the ball heading off yet again into the near empty Railway End.
Although it was good to see County getting chances, we really needed one or more to be taken, but instead Sharp`s shot , mid way into the half, climbed over the bar, after good work by Wallace and Morgan had forced him wider than he wanted to be.
Sharp was by far County`s best forward thus far, but for Ilkeston the best attacking option seemed to be Luke Shaw – who sent Rob Duffy charging clear one moment, and the next  darted through himself only being thwarted by strong play from Fagbola.
Corners came and went at both ends next.....Dennis seeing a shot deflected  wide......and Todd in position not long after to block a  cross from Richards . Of the two flag kicks Ilkeston`s fared the better –Lees doing well to head this out under pressure, only for Wallace to usher the pill back again. Hurst held Rob Duffy`s eventual header comfortably enough,

Richards ahoy !

............. but there was sufficient content there to give the blues some serious food for thought, and more followed as County passed the ball about and promptly lost it! Thankfully when Wallace`s cross pinged in.....Richards sent his header could easily have been much worse though!
Lees and Gregson foil Richards.

County were finding it difficult to break the Ilkeston rhythm, and I again looked on aghast to see Gregson fending off shots from Richards and Wallace in rapid succession, with County unable to clear the ball. Once more a chance begged taking by the Robins, but again the shot went the wrong side of the woodwork for the visitors, this time via the foot of Morgan. It stayed 0-0 at the break but not before Shaw had put County in a flap with a run that took him to the by-line, and a cross that deserved better. A run ( a la Bale) from O`Halloran, and a shot that climbed and climbed over the bar, and that was the first half put to bed.

Cheadle End....a view of....
I had thought that a word or two from A.L. would sort things for the second half , but the early action on the resumption saw Hurst having to make a catch- it was comfortable enough but  it seemed to be also an indication as to Ilkeston`s intent as well, and not long after Duffy was almost played through, as County found themselves pushed back on the defensive. This went on for the first 5 or 6 minutes of the half only interrupted by a shot on the turn from Sharp that whizzed out inches from the angle of bar and post.

Jordan Smith gets on happily with the County boys !
We needed County to get into gear quickly, but thus far this was not happening, as both sides tried without success to break the deadlock......Wallace wellying a Milligan free kick clear at one end......Hurst snatching the pill off Richards` toes the next........O`Halloran`s brilliance teeing Milligan up for a cross that Maguire did well to head clear. My head was spinning somewhat as play swung again, and Fagbola produced a neat piece of work to stop Richards who was rapidly shaping up as something of a menace.

No way through for O`Halloran.
Slowly......County started to ease their way back into the driving seat...the moves still seemed to lack bite and cohesion, but there were signs at last that something was stirring as a Dennis shot was blocked by Jack Lane, and another from Baker saw Maguire on hand to see it off, after O`Halloran had turned magician /provider again in the build up.

Toddy`s shot blocked by Wallace.
There was of course still a need for the blue back line to stay focused and Fagbola did just that, doing particularly well to stop Morgan after he had been joined by Shaw and Duffy in an attempt to cause mayhem.
With just over 20 minutes left, AL rang the changes ( or tried to), bringing Spencer and Woolfe on for Sharp and Baker. I say `tried to’ because it took Woolfe about 2 minutes to get on the field of play, somehow languishing on the touchline long after Spencer had gone on and Sharp and Baker gone off. No amount of anguished howls from the home specs prompted the referee to allow him on the park. It was sad that this bit of sub park level refereeing should occur, as I thought the referee ( Kev Mulraine) had done reasonably well, that ultimately innocuous incident apart.
Todd was unlucky straight off after this – a shot from him stinging keeper Smith`s hands- the liner`s flag was raised to signal `offside’ but Toddy did not know that, as I sensed A.L. inking over Matthew`s pencilled name on his next team sheet!
Were County suddenly showing signs now?........
Well......yes....and Milligan was distinctly unlucky to see his latest free kick whiz inches wide with Smith a spectator!

Milligan free kick......

......and the aftermath.......
Then......just 6 minutes after the double substitution, it happened......and County snatched the goal that they required. The referee had just ignored a foul on Milligan with County buzzing energetically just beyond half way, when the ball reached Dennis and he hurried it forward to strike partner Scott Spencer who jinked clear. He was now one on one with Smith, and then this fact was irrelevant as he had slid a peach of a shot under Smith into the net to give County a priceless lead!

Spencer breaks clear.....
The visitors worked hard after this, going close twice.....both times through Richards , but he was out of luck, seeing Hurst make a save for the first ,and his second drift wide.
As a consequence ...County had the chance to hit their opponents on the break and Dennis was not happy to see Smith push a fierce shot from him around the post, after good work by Spencer.

Dennis goes close....
Ilkeston still fancied a replay at their place though and none more so than Richards who looked suitably mortified when his penalty claim was turned down with 8 minutes left.
The pressure was increasingly on County in the closing stages with crosses pinging in at a rate of knots. They were dealing with these well enough but the Robins just would not lie down ...go away....or anything of that ilk.....and about 2200 souls had a near death experience next as the ball thudded into the post from substitute Niall Rooney`s shot- the other 250 or so were shouting “ goal” but it was not to be and Toddy whacked the ball clear to ease the angst of the 2200!
That was too close for comfort, thus it was a welcome sight to see County mount a counter attack shortly after, but not so good to see Spencer over finesse his finish after getting to the by-line quite brilliantly. No matter....County persisted and Todd emphasised just how good an all-rounder he is as he swept into the box and laid a beaut on for Dennis....who promptly lifted it into our midst in Row R.
Spencer has a go late on......

 The last few minutes were not for the faint hearted as both sides had a go.....
To be fair mostly it was Ilkeston on the charge as twice Morgan went close.
Spencer replied for the blues, but he dragged his shot disappointingly wide to keep the Robins in the game with added time upon us.
And they were determined to make the most of what remained of the game as well, and Hurst pulled off a really good save to keep Che Adams out after the ball had pin balled about in the box.
The Away End was still in good voice in the 93rd minute as Tunji Moses lumped the ball clear from a late/ late Adams cross.....that was over....match won.....
A win is a a the man said, and a 1-0 win against a team battling  as hard and well as the Robins had, will do me quite nicely thank you.
Well done to A.L. and the boys and here`s to a kindly home draw next time around.

County line up:
Hurst, Todd, Lees, Gregson,Fagbola, O`Halloran, Churchman, Milligan ( Moses 85), Baker (Woolfe  68/70), Sharp ( Spencer 68),Dennis.
Subs not used;
Ormson, Belezika, Hancock, Lazenbury.

Ilkeston line up;
Smith, Shaw, Wallace, Wright, Maguire, Lane, Morgan, Chettle, Duffy, Richards, Adams.
Bamer, Williams, Hunter, Reid, Gordon, Myles, Rooney.

Attendance:  2562

Ian Brown

Additional Gallery;

Early arrivals from Ilkeston....

Just a few of welcome Ilkeston visitors in the packed Bung after 2o`clock....


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