Belper Town had to work hard in the 28 degrees heat to secure a well earned point after having a man sent off after only 24 minutes on Bank Holiday Monday.
Steve Ridley’s dismissal early in the game looked a harsh decision by the referee and it left the Nailers re-writing their game plan after looking the better side up until that point.
Phil Watt was handed his first start of the season while injuries to Danny Gordon and Zeph Thomas meant that Derry Robson and George Milner were both in the starting XI.
The Nailers set the early running with Derry Robson and Nathan Curtis having efforts just wide of the target, then in the 13th minute Robins’ ‘keeper Ross Durrant completely missed George Milner’s cross and he was fortunate only to concede a corner kick.
Then came the sending off incident when Fabian Smith chased a through ball and while Steve Ridley’s challenge was certainly a foul, it was questionable whether the player would have gone on and scored.
However the referee saw things differently and Ridley had to go.
The Nailers had to readjust but after a short spell during which the game went quiet, it was Belper who began to look dangerous again.
Two consecutive corners put pressure on the hosts in the 33rd minute, but Ilkeston fans began to get frustrated with their team’s inability to make their numerical advantage count.
Belper were so well organised across the back and in midfield, the Robins couldn’t find any openings and the Nailers closed ranks to such an extent that any attempt to break through were quickly snuffed out.
In the closing stages of the first half Belper still caused Ilkeston problems on the break and Derry Robson might have given the Nailers the lead when his well struck shot took a slight deflection for a corner.
The second period was always likely to get more pressurised for Belper, however opportunities were created in the first 15 minutes of the half that could quite easily have resulted in a goal.
George Milner had too much pace for the Robins’ defenders, and on 50 minutes he hit the outside of the post with a fierce angled shot, and moments later he found the angle too tight after skipping past the ‘keeper.
The intense heat made life difficult for both teams and tempers frayed as the half wore on.
Danny South had an opening in the 68th minute but couldn’t connect with the ball properly; however Ilkeston substitutions slowly turned the game in their favour particularly with the introduction of Kevin Bastos.
The Nailers had to dig in defensively, but it had taken up to the 75th minute for Ilkeston to have a direct attempt on goal, and when it came from a close range header from Tyreece Robinson, Ryan Musselwhite was equal to it.
The Nailers still found the energy to break out occasionally and Derry Robson squandered a presentable opportunity with a poor shot on 83 minute, and Ilkeston could never feel comfortable as they applied more pressure to find a winner.
The closest they came was in added on time when Alex Marshall had only Musselwhite to beat at the far post but again the Belper ‘keeper pulled off a great stop even though the referee’s assistant’s flag would have ruled out a goal anyway.
It was a magnificent effort from Grant Black’s men who looked in control despite the searing heat and losing Steve Ridley a quarter of they way through the game.
Ilkeston Town: Durrant, White, Green, Fyfe, Robinson T, Freeman, Smith (Hollis 90), Marshall T, Harrad (Wakefield 70), Dear (Bastos 54), Marshall A. Unused subs: Robinson M, Stainsby.
Belper Town: Musselwhite, Bryant, Ridley, Bertram, South, Watt, Robson, Nelthorpe (Clark 60), Peterson (McDonnell 81), Milner (Dawes 72), Curtis. Unused sub: Waldram, Kozluk.
Referee: Stuart Richardson.