Gathercole on form to deny Millers

Evo-Stik Division One South

New Mills AFC 0, Ilkeston Town 3

THREE first-half goals were sufficient for Division One South leaders Ilkeston Town to secure victory over New Mills at Church Lane on Monday evening.

Despite their confidence being high after such an excellent team performance at Lincoln United last Saturday, the Millers were immediately pushed onto the back foot in the early proceedings and weren’t allowed to get into their stride by a strong and physical Ilkeston side.

It came as no real surprise therefore when the visitors took the lead in the 19th minute when Daryll Thomas’ cutback from the by-line was converted from close range by Gary Ricketts.

This opening goal seemed to spur on the home side and they eventually started to make some headway in the attacking third of the pitch.

Captain Luke Horrocks stung the palms of Ben Gathercole with a long-distance shot and then the on-loan Nottingham Forest keeper made an excellent save to deny Carlos Meakin’s stinging low effort.

The game’s outcome was ultimately decided by the five minutes leading up to the half-time interval.

Gathercole started the sequence of events with a stunning save to deny Ashley Stott’s header with the keeper somehow clawing away the ball when it looked like it had already gone past him.

The importance of the save became even more apparent when 60 seconds later, Gary Ricketts scored his second goal of the evening when he reacted quickest to a Joe McGuire knockdown from a corner to double Ilkeston’s advantage.

The shell-shocked home side then proceeded to press the self-destruct button after being awarded a free-kick on the halfway line.

After sending up the big guns from the back, for some unexplained reason, they decided to take a quick free-kick from where Luke Horrocks lost possession and within a matter of seconds, Daryll Thomas had run into the acres of space afforded to him by the lack of defensive cover to nick the ball around the quickly advancing James Coates and shoot into the unguarded net.

If there was any way back into the game, New Mills needed an early goal in the second half, and for an uncharacteristic miss from Meakin they could have grabbed a lifeline but after finding himself with time and space, the midfielder dragged his effort narrowly wide of the far upright.

That could have changed the complexion of the game but as the half progressed, it was clear that Ilkeston’s gameplan was to hold on to what they had and this they achieved through some uncompromising defending and clearing the ball into the proverbial ‘Row Z’ on several occasions.

The Millers did get a couple of further sights of the goal though but again Gathercole was alert enough to smother Stott’s shot with his legs and then on the sole occasion they managed to beat the keeper, Ryan Wilson was on hand to clear Meakin’s header off the line.

Any neutral looking at the scoreline may conclude that Ilkeston had won easily and while it would be churlish to deny them the victory, there is no doubt that the outstanding performance of Gathercole was a significant factor in them maintaining their position at the league summit.

New Mills: Coates, Edridge, Gorman, Bowler, Jackson (Field), Brown (Cox), Meakin, Innes, Stott, Douglas-Pringle (Grandison), Horrocks. Unused subs: Gale, Pickering.