Witton Albion share the spoils with Ilkeston at the end of a contest both teams took a turn leading
Anthony Gardner scored Witton's first goal against Ilkeston.
WITTON have not won this week, yet they have climbed the table to third place.
Successive draws – Albion had previously passed through four months without one – have propelled Brian Pritchard’s men to a loftier position.
He compared shared spoils with Ilkeston to stopping a juggernaut.
“I’m as happy as I can be without winning,” he said.
“They have taller players than we do, but we have hearts just as big.”
He had reason to fear the worst when skipper Anthony Sheehan’s attempt at clearing James Reid’s curved free kick hit the net via an upright – and Albion custodian Matt Cooper – midway through the first half.
It marked a third time this term that Witton have scored on Ilkeston’s behalf; an Albion touch was the decisive one for both of their opponents’ goals when the teams met in September.
That, plus his team tends not to fare well when conceding first.
They had been warned twice before falling behind here; Aaron Hooton’s snapshot dipped too late, then Gary Ricketts’ thumping header hit the bar, not the net, from Jack Watts’ centre.
Albion also survived other scares, the source almost always a set piece sent at pace towards their goal by Reid’s left boot.
Watts himself went close before Witton at last threatened at the other end, although Sheehan’s side-footed attempt from Steve Foster’s assist lacked power.
Fortune did not favour Ilkeston when they conceded, Anthony Gardner’s rising attempt deflecting off a lunging Joe Maguire on its way into the far corner.
Cooper kept hold of Hooton’s header, from another Reid flag kick, as Ilkeston hit back.
Witton stopped Reid’s supply when ceding fewer free kicks after the interval, a period when they supplied support to lone striker Foster much more quickly.
A diagonal pass sent Andrews into a space from which he could shoot freely at goal, but he delayed long enough for Maguire’s block to be decisive.
Albion’s wide man turned provider on the hour,
Foster’s swift spin and shot a just reward for his teammate’s inventive approach play.
Ilkeston, so imposing earlier, shrivelled.
It proved fleeting, for Reid roused the Robins with a moment of improvisation that allowed him to escape two defenders despite being cornered.
He served Watts, but Cooper clawed away his attempt after it hit a defender en route. Dan Partridge reacted quickest, rifling the loose ball into the net.
Hooton’s header skidded wide from Laurie Wilson’s cross soon afterwards.
Neither side settled for letting slip a lead, although in the end a draw did nothing to damage either’s cause.
Ilkeston are unbeaten now in seven Premier Division matches, while Witton avoided defeat in a contest they would likely have lost earlier in the campaign.
Witton Star Man: Danny Andrews. Played a pivotal part in both goals, he was the most constant source of threat to Ilkeston’s defence. A return like this one is a reminder too of what Witton missed in his absence against Nantwich on New Year’s Day.
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Anthony Gardner, Ben Harrison, Booth, Wood, Andrews, Sheehan (Tuck 79), James, Shaw, Hancock (Meechan 68), Foster. Subs not used Clayton, Glover, Jamie Harrison. GoalsGardner 43, Foster 59. Booked James (foul), Sheehan (dissent).
Ilkeston (4-4-2) Martin (GK), Partridge, Maguire, Cooke, Smith, Watts, Laurie Wilson, Ryan Wilson, Reid, Ricketts, Hooton (Dereece Gardner 81). Subs not used Cullingworth, Pearson, Ford, Wilcox. GoalsSheehan 24 (own goal), Partridge 67. Booked Hooton (foul).
Referee Paul Hodskinson (Preston)