Muller magic sends Ilkeston through
Unibond League Challenge Cup Fourth Round
Ilkeston Town 1
Hednesford Town 0
Oh the joys of the cup, David flicking stones at Goliath, banana skins, bizarre results, dances by the victors as the vanquished trudge off.
And there's the romance of the New Manor Ground in a biting wind, the gravel trains heading up the Erewash Valley, the Robins tackling the Pitmen in that most glamorous of contests, the Unibond League Cup.
But at least there was a semblance of occasion with a TV crew recording the match for a highlights' show on cable.
The 11-year-old Ilkeston mascot Curtis Burrows was among the first to tread the boards.
The whistle sounded and midfielder Justin Walker provided the first telly treat as he charged through but lifted his shot over the top.
Adam Muller got into the picture as he chased a long goal kick and got the ball out to Nathan James on the right wing.
When the ball came over, Nigel Jemson was adjudged to have pushed a defender out of the way. Ilkeston were soon back in attack and former Ilkeston player Paul Robinson produced a fine tackle to halt Muller.
Within moments, the pair were facing each other again and this time Muller flourished only for his right wing cross to be cleared.
Hednesford finally began to influence the game through midfielders Mario Pedro and Wayne Dyer, who once scored a World Cup goal for Monserrat. On this occasion, Nathan Winder dealt with the cross from the right.
In the 13th minute, Walker again showed himself to be in the mood for action as he swept past two defenders. The shot shook the side netting.
The response was an attack via left back Ross Adams but the visitors' forwards were suffering from stage fright and failed to arrive to turn in the cross.
Keeper James Lindley knocked a long kick towards the Ilkeston goal, where the dipping sun might have complicated the work of his opposite number. Muller appeared to have a chance but lifted his shot over the top.
Left-back Lee Featherstone sent winger James on a run but he was unable to shake off Chad Sheppard, who was snapping at his heels like a collie.
In the 21st minute, Chris Hanna produced a low shot which clipped a defender to complicate things for Lindley. It did not bother the keeper who took the shot with ease.
Hanna, who is on loan from Walsall, linked well with centre forward Alan Nagington and got the ball back. It was a dangerous moment but Liam Powell's tackle was perfectly timed.
llkeston responded with Jemson winning a corner, which was taken by Walker. His manager ran back from the near post and narrowly failed to direct the header on target, leaving Jemson's face crumpled in frustration.
Nagington thought he had got through for Hednesford but a defender ran back to block his progress. The visitors kept up a little pressure which ended when Sheppard fired over the bar.
Powell soon displayed the attacking instincts of Sheppard, skimming over a low cross as Jemson challenged the keeper. When Hednesford responded, Featherstone did enough to ensure defender Gordon Simms had little time to aim accurately.
Again, Powell got away down the right and found central defender Barry Woolley, whose header was a little wide. But Hednesford found a way of threatening the home goal in 43 minutes when Adams went on a long run which ended with a shot off target.
Colin Hunter took a free kick and Woolley headed it wide, although the referee would have ruled it out anyhow because he decided the Ilkeston man had been pushing an opponent.
Former Portugal under-21 international Pedro played the ball inside to Dyer and there appeared to be a problem. But it was a false alarm as Nathan Winder guessed what they were up to and put a stop to their plans.
Muller again ran at the visiting defence before turning ball inside to Jemson. The shot hit a defender and was cleared. The referee decided there should be another two mnutes played before the teams had a break.
It could have been a profitable time because Ilkeston created with a fine move. James crossed from the right and Jemson knocked the ball back for Walker, whose shot went over the bar.
The tie resumed with Ilkeston still having the better of things. Jemson crossed from the left and saw the ball unwittingly returned to him by a defender. Not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth, he decided to shoot but only succeeded in kicking the ball out of the ground.
The busy Jemson next arrived on the right and the ball clipped a defender. It was cleared only as far Walker but he lost his footing at the crucial moment.
Pedro won the ball just outside the Ilkeston penalty area and eased it through to Nagington. The linesman put up his flag for offside.
Featherstone tried to free Muller but Simms kicked the ball out of play, although his side was soon under pressure again. James charged down the wing and got round Adams but the defender recovered to concede a corner.
In 62 minutes, Ilkeston proved they were staying on top. Hunter's corner was headed just over by Woolley who had lost two markers.
A long pass found Nagington but he shot wide and the same fate befell an effort by Pedro soon after. It prompted manager Phil Starbuck to make a couple of substitutions in an effort to sharpen his team's threat.Muller gave them no time to try out the new approach, running through and pulling the ball across the goal area. Nobody was in place to try a shot.
Substitute Harry Hambleton, who had replaced Anthony Maguire, had a shot but Lindley was more than equal to it. There was more inventive play at the other end when Jemson sidestepped a defender, only to shoot over the top.
Pedro conjured up a dangerous moment and gave Hanna the glimpse of a chance but the striker was unable to turn it in.
Jemson took control of the ball and backheeled it for Muller just inside the penalty area. It was a moment of high skill but the ball struck Muller's hand and the referee awarded a free kick.
The move also left Jemson with a painful injury and he had to withdraw from the field of play. He was replaced by Shane Newton, the prolific young striker from the reserves.
Hunter sprinted down the left wing but ran out of play, taking the ball with him. Several Ilkeston players suggested they were witnesses to an awful injustice which would only be righted by a penalty. The referee paid scant attention.
Muller flicked the ball through for Newton and the teenager's shot went arcing wide. But Ilkeston soon had the goal and their route into the quarter finals.
Hunter sent Muller through and the striker held off two challengers before turning the ball inside and onto his right foot. The shot was savage and well placed into the top corner of thenet. Keeper Rene Gilmartin could only wave it goodbye.
The match seemed to be meandering to a conclusion when Hednesford had a chance of forcing extra time and even penalties.
In the three minutes of added time, Dyer went racing through but Lindley saw him coming. The keeper strode out of his penalty area and kicked the ball out of range.
The final whistle failed to prompt jigs of delight among the Ilkeston players but there was a feeling of satisfaction for a job well done.
The Hednesford players went to salute their fans for enduring a dull game and a miserable result on a cold, damp day.
1 James Lindley
2 Liam Powell
3 Lee Featherstone
4 Gareth Holmes (Ross Gardner 65)
5 Barry Woolley
6 Nathan Winder
7 Nathan James
8 Justin Walker
9 Adam Muller
10 Nigel Jemson (Shane Newton 78)
11 Colin Hunter
Referee: T Simmons (Coalville)