Adam Yates reports from the New Manor Ground as Marine battled valiantly against a well drilled Ilkeston Town side for a share of the points in a tense 1-1 draw.

It was the cliched ‘game of two halves’ as both sides scored during deserved bouts of intense possession and chances galore.

The first half was a challenging one for Marine as hosts Ilkeston were generally the more spirited and cohesive attacking side. The defence was pivotal in keeping Town at bay with a superb performance throughout the 90 by Wrexham loanee, Scott Butler.

The Marine strategy repeatedly focused on Bobby Grant as an aerial target for him to lay off the ball to his wide men and it worked but Ilkeston’s defensive record precedes them and they were well drilled when it came to protecting the penalty area.

The chances for the Reds primarily came from two players. Tom Curson had an early shot go wide from long range after a great lobbed cross by Jamie Walker.

Later in the half, Walker found himself with a free header in the 6 yard area but his attempt headed straight into the hands of Luke Hutchinson.

As for Marine, Fin Sinclair-Smith attempted a curled effort albeit over the bar. Owen Robinson generated his own space outside the box but the shot was blocked by the Reds defence.

Midway through the opening 45, Ilkeston broke the deadlock. A run from L’Varn Brandy played the ball across to Jaime Walker but his shot was saved and fell to Tom Cursons who fired it in from close range.

Seconds after the restart, the lead was nearly doubled. A beautiful strike by Walker from 25 yards rattled the woodwork.

After the goal, Marine’s chances came to no avail with none on target. A Sinclair-Smith free kick went high and wide, Gregson’s out of the ground however a corner from Solomon missed everyone but kissed the far post on its way past.

The second half came with a change at the back.

Freddie Sass, still carrying a knock, came off for Joseph Ferguson and things started to turn in Marine’s favour…

Shots on target became plentiful from Harvey Gregson and Fin albeit not powerful enough to worry keeper, Mathew Yates. The Bobby Grant knock down tactic was starting to bear fruit and it was an involvement by Grant that gave Solomon his first goal since Christmas.

A close range 70th minute half volley from King Sol not only gave Marine the equaliser but he also equalled his output from the season prior if we count the goals against Marske in the cup (which we do, because it happened).

After the equaliser, Marine changed their approach to a more passing game but Ilkeston changed gears and inflicted a near 20 minute onslaught unto the visitors to make for a nail biting finale.

As the 90 approached, a couple of messy back passes placed Luke Hutchinson into unfortunate danger and his luck ran out when Alex Marshall clattered into the keeper and he was forced off the pitch. Neil Young was forced to alter his final substitution and bring on Richard Cowderoy. This was the third appearance off the bench for ‘The Cat’ and he has yet to concede but he had work to do in order to keep that statistic with the Reds smelling blood in the Derbyshire water and they nearly broke it with a late free kick glancing against his far post but the whistle came shortly after to announce the points shared.

Due to results around them, Marine maintain second place but with a fortnight without an NPL game, the Mariners will likely find themselves further down the playoff table when then meet their next away opponent, runaway league leaders, Radcliffe.

Ilkeston Town: 1 Mathew Yates, 2 James Perch, 3 Sam Parker, 4 Declan Eratt-Thomas, 5 Thomas Marshall, 6 Luke Cox, 7 L’Varn Brandy (Jonathan Wafula 52′), 8 Callum Minkley, 9 Thomas Cursons, 10 Ben Starkie, 11 Jaime Walker (Alex Marshall 79′)

Subs: 12 Llarell King, 13 Mitchell Leivers, 14 Jonathan Wafula, 16 Liam Laughlan, 17 Alex Marshall

Marine: 1 Luke Hutchinson (Richard Cowderoy 89′), 2 Matty Waters, 3 Freddie Sass, 4 Harvey Gregson, 5 Scott Butler, 6 Josh Wardle, 7 Finlay Sinclair-Smith, 8 Louis White (Jon Routledge 67′), 9 Bobby Grant, 10 Sol Solomon, 11 Owen Robinson

Subs: 12 Tom Pratt, 13 Richard Cowderoy, 14 Jon Routledge, 15 Chris Doyle, 16 Joseph Ferguson

Northern Premier League – Premier Division

Saturday 3rd February 2024

New Manor Ground

Attendance: 747

Marine Player of the Match – Scott Butler

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