RESILIENT Rainworth made promotion-chasing Ilkeston grind out a result courtesy of a goal either side of half-time.
But the Wrens were left to curse their ill-luck as a couple of crucial refereeing decisions went against them - this after Danny Bacon was desperately unfortunate not to give them a fourth minute lead when he rattled the Robins’ bar.
Daryll Thomas headed the home side into a 44th-minute lead at the end of a half in which they had enjoyed the greater possession, but Rainworth had created the better scoring opportunities.
But when a controversially awarded penalty gave debutant Laurie Wilson the chance to double the lead after what looked distinctly ball-to-hand, there looked no way back for a side which always struggles to score goals.
Rainworth boss Kevin Gee responded by immediately sending on Matt Glass and Nathan Adams, and within two minutes the two had combined for Adams to hit home, only for the goal to be cruelly ruled out by a rogue offside flag.
Gary Ricketts had the ball in the Rainworth net towards the end but that, too, was disallowed for a blatant push, to the anger of home boss Kevin Wilson who received a long lecture from Coalville official Andrew Barney.
With Ale Barcherini unavailable for the second successive Saturday, semi-retired Mark Hales resumed in goal. And, while one or two expected new signings failed to materialise, the travelling fans did have the boost of seeing Adams return to the squad, albeit on the bench.
The Wrens almost made a dream start when Bacon spotted home keeper Ben Gathercole off his line, only for the former Mansfield striker’s clever lob to come back off the bar, Niall O’Rafferty’s follow-up going too high.
What would have transpired had that gone in is anyone’s guess, but as it was, Ilkeston began to carry the game to the Wrens, whose defence held firm with Mark Camm, Steve Kennedy and Lee Cooksey giving nothing away and maintaining a tight rein on Gary Ricketts and Thomas.
Twice Sam Duncum found a way around the back on the left, but on both occasions he ran the ball out as he was closed down.
However, there was a scare when Romaine Graham upended Duncum on the edge of the box in a central position. However, James Cullingworth’s free kick went to safety off team mate Ricketts.
Hales comfortably held Ricketts’ far post header off Ryan Wilson’s deep cross, and then punched a corner clear after Cooksey had denied Ricketts.
A promising Rainworth move midway through the half saw Ben Spargo finally crowded out after being picked out by Ryan Goward. Then after Jack Watts and Matt Richards had gone close for the home side, Goward latched onto O’Rafferty’s astute pass to hit his rising 20-yarder just over the bar.
With Rainworth enjoying a good spell Goward saw another good effort take a deflection for a corner, and then Paling fizzed a spearing drive inches wide after the home defence failed to deal with his long throw in.
Romaine Graham was catching the eye with some sparkling runs out of defence for a big man.
When one such run set up Spargo, he was brought down on the right edge of the area by Richards - but Goward’s free kick curled beyond the far post.
After having performed so well it was heartbreaking for the Wrens to fall behind in the 44th minute, Thomas’ deft back-header glancing into the net off Duncum’s near post cross.
And although Paling had a half-chance to level in stoppage time when found in space on the left, his drive whisked wide.
Rainworth came under some early second half pressure but dealt with it competently, with Hales well-placed to hold a vicious Watts effort from a half-cleared corner.
However, when Kennedy could only deflect a cross by Richards onto the arm of the unlucky Paling, Mr Barney pointed to the spot in response to the loud appeals from the crowd massed behind Hales’ goal.
And former Alfreton midfielder Laurie Wilson, who had just arrived on loan from Conference North Harrogate Town, slotted the perfect penalty low to the keeper’s right.
Gee responded immediately by sending on Glass and Adams, and within two minutes the pair had linked up well for Adams to mark his long-awaited return by netting.
However, celebrations were cut short by an offside flag, although Wrens fans who were level were adamant that he was onside and the goal should have counted.
But when you have a scoring record like that of Rainworth you just do not come back from two down, and Hales did well to spread himself to keep out Laurie Wilson’s driven free kick.
With Goward lying injured in the 63rd minute Thomas shot wide from the edge of the area, also injuring himself in the process, and both were replaced.
A strong, surging run by O’Rafferty forced a corner off Dan Patridge in the 76th minute, before Hales, showing not the slightest ring-rustiness, was down well again to hold Will McCall’s crisp shot on the turn.
And, in the final action of note in the 89th minute, Ricketts’ bullet header from a corner rocketed into the net, but the whistle had already gone for a push.
ILKESTON: Gathercole, Cullingworth, R. Wilson, L. Wilson, Partridge, Cooke, Watts (McCall 81), Richards, Ricketts, Thomas (Waite 63), Duncum (Wilcox 81). Subs not used: Maguire, Caskey.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Cooksey, Paling (Glass 56), Camm, Kennedy, Graham, Toyne (Adams 56), Bacon, Spargo, O’Rafferty, Goward (Simpson 63).
REFEREE: Andrew Barney of Coalville.
GOALS: Ilkeston—Thomas 44; L. Wilson 56 pen.
WRENS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Mark Camm.