Two goals apiece from Alex Marshall and Montel Gibson condemned Hinckley AFC to defeat against Ilkeston Town at the New Manor Ground.
In front of a 551-strong crowd, the first half was largely even and the half time scoreline reflected as such, Lee Butler’s free kick cancelled out Marshall’s header to send the sides in level at the break.
But with the game all to play for after half time, Hinckley didn’t gain a foothold in the game and once Gibson’s fine goal had restored Ilkeston’s lead, they didn’t look like relinquishing it and added two further goals late on.
Carl Abbott made two changes to the side that drew with Cadbury Athletic last week. Richard Monday returned to the side, while Jean Kalenda started having recently returned to the club.
Before the game, it looked an intriguing battle between an Ilkeston side who don’t score too many but don’t concede many either, and a Hinckley side who are quite the opposite.
It was AFC who started the brighter, and had the first chance six minutes in when top scorer George Bowerman danced his way into a shooting position but fired weakly goalbound and Chris Shaw cleared.
Then, from Butler’s wide free kick, Mitchell Tomlinson couldn’t connect with his header and home goalkeeper Ian Deakin comfortably grabbed.
And, in a game where both sides looked to play good football on a fine surface, it was ironic that the opening goal was as route one as they come. From a long pump upfield, Haydn Whitcombe was caught in two minds and Marshall took full advantage of that hesitancy to beat the keeper to the ball, nod past him and slide home on the line.
That sparked Ilkeston into life and they had the better of the next phase of the game. Gibson headed powerfully over after a short corner, before the same players shot was blocked following Lavell White’s marauding run.
From the resulting corner, Hinckley only half cleared and Jamie Walker curled ambitiously over.
But eight minutes before half time, Hinckley pulled level. A loose ball on the edge of the box fell to Joe Haines, who was felled as he pulled the trigger. Butler stood over the resulting free kick and wrong footed Deakin, finding the bottom corner.
Buoyed by the goal, Hinckley finished the half on top and Bowerman’s clever lob landed just over Deakin’s goal in first half stoppage time.
And with the game in the balance, the destiny of the points was decided in the first eight minutes of the half when Hinckley squandered their chance to take the lead, and Ilkeston took theirs.
Hinckley had the first two sights of goal after the break, firstly through Lee Miveld who curled straight at Deakin.
But then came that golden chance to go ahead. Shaw’ backpass was far too short and allowed Steve Hart to run trough on goal, but with just Deakin to beat the striker fired into the side netting.
And four minutes later, it was the home side who scored the next goal. It came from Gibson’s moment of magic, as a quite brilliant turn allowed him to get the better of James Williams and he coolly slotted his side back in front.
That set up the rest of the game for the home side to dominate, and with Hinckley trying to play their way out of trouble, the game opened up and the hosts had chances to extend their lead. Tom Marshall half volleyed over from 20 yards, Whitcombe denied Alex Marshall with a tremendous save after Hinckley gave the ball away on the edge of their own box and Gibson danced through but fired wide when he should have scored.
And when Hinckley were caught overplaying at the back again, Ilkeston took full advantage as Marshall set up Gibson to net his second.
Hinckley’s other best chance of the half came immediately from the re-start, but from Isaac Cooper’s cross, Bowerman’s header looked to be good enough until Deakin’s stunning save clawed it away.
Ilkeston broke back straight away, and Gibson found himself through on goal, only for Whitcombe to force him wide and allow Munday to clear his effort off the line.
As the game meandered towards a conclusion, Hinckley substitute Ryan Baldwin sliced over from the edge of the box, but in truth Ilkeston were never threatened in the closing stages even though Hinckley saw more of the ball. Whitcombe made another good save to deny Marshall late on, but he was powerless to stop the same player in stoppage time as both centre halves were taken out by one long ball and Marshall raced through to score a fourth.
It means Ilkeston are now five unbeaten in the league, while Hinckley return back to St John’s Park next week for their first home game in over a month.
Ilkeston: Ian Deakin, Lavell White, Jamie Walker, Chris Shaw, Charlie Jemson, Elliott Hodgett-Young, Martin Lench, Tom Marshall, Alex Marshall, Montel Gibson (Tim Hopkinson 84), Ben Clarke (Billy Bennett 57). Subs not used: Jordan Wheatley, Jake Wood, Ben Fairclough
Goals: Alex Marshall (15, 90), Montel Gibson (53, 67)
Hinckley: Haydn Whitcombe, Marcus Jackson, Joe Haines (Isaac Cooper 57), James Williams, Richard Munday, Mitchell Tomlinson, Lee Butler (Sean Geddes 57) Lee Miveld, Steve Hart, George Bowerman, Jean Kalenda (Ryan Baldwin 63). Subs not used: Jake Healy, Kyle Minto
Goal: Lee Butler (37)