Workington Reds made sure their season won’t finish on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Ilkeston which ensured a third successive play-off finish in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
Despite having nothing but pride to play for, already-relegated Ilkeston were no pushovers for more than an hour, and had chances to take the lead themselves, with Anthony Dwyer’s cross directed wide before a header from a free-kick cracked the post late in the first half.
The visitors made their intent clear early on with some inviting balls over the top for the sprightly Dwyer to latch on to but Reds held their shape and muscled their way into the game.
The first half chance fell to Connor Tinnion when a throw-in was sliced by a visiting defender and the forward stole in at the far post but couldn’t keep his shot down.
A touch of class from Nathan Waterston in the 14th minute finally tested Dale Eve as he chested down superbly and tried to slip it under the keeper, but the Ilkeston man was was equal to it with a smart save.
Reds thought they had broken the deadlock when Tinnion lofted an inviting cross over from the right and Waterston headed it back across goal, but Eve was alert to fist it away and although Josh Calvert turned the ball in, the flag was already up for offside.
The hosts came close again with a free-kick which Rob Wilson whipped in but the ball span away off the post and Reds couldn’t make anything from the loose ball.
Reds were beginning to ask better questions of the visitors’ defence but, in the 42nd minute, Ilkeston had the best chance yet as Dwyer escaped his man and his cross was glanced past the far post.
Allison then stung the fingertips of Eve after the ball fell to him some eight yards out but it was Ilkeston who had the last chance of the half as Sam Smith hauled Dywer to the ground with his back to goal and the resulting free-kick was nodded down and off the post by Matt Baker.
The away side thought they had taken the lead at last in the opening minute of the second half when a precise through ball released the lively Dwyer to slot past Taylor, but Reds were saved by the offside flag.
Sam Joel joined the fray in the 52nd minute, with Waterston disappointed to be making way, as Reds pushed for the opener, while Anthony Wright arrived minutes later.
There were calls for the referee to point to the spot when Wilson wriggled into the box from the right and appeared to be fouled all the way but the referee judged that it had not continued into the area.
But the breakthrough came at last in the 63rd minute as Joel arrived at the far post to head back across goal and Eve could only palm it into the roof of the net.
Joel almost had his second minutes later as he challenged for a high ball which deflected out for a corner and, although May tried to direct it goalwards, he couldn’t get enough purchase.
And the youngster was at the heart of another chance in the 73rd minute as he slipped Symington in down the right but no-one was there to meet his low cross.
Reds were determined to turn their control into a more comfortable scoreline and they did so in the 77th minute as a downward header from Connor Tinnion was hacked away but only after it had crossed the line.
Allison almost made sure of the three points as he shot wide late on but in truth Ilkeston’s players looked shot and failed to test Taylor as the clock ticked down.
There was, in fact, late drama for Ilkeston after all as the impressive Dwyer was shown red in the 88th minute and his side’s only real threat was lost, with the whistle going after three added minutes and the promotion dream still alive.