Boss delighted as Robins return to winning ways

Lee Ndlovu forces the ball over the line to put Ilkeston in front against Ramsbottom on Saturday. Photo by Craig Lamont.
Lee Ndlovu forces the ball over the line to put Ilkeston in front against Ramsbottom on Saturday. Photo by Craig Lamont.

Andy Watson says he was pleased with his Ilkeston FC players’ response to the defeat at Workington as they overcame Ramsbottom United at the weekend.

The Robins had conceded three goals in Cumbria, including an injury-time winner, but scored the same number themselves to overcome the bottom of the table sid at the New Manor Ground seven days later.

And with his young squad learning lessons all of the time, the head coach says this was another encouraging performance given what had happened the week before.

He said: “It was a really good response - to play so well in the final third and also to keep a clean sheet was very pleasing.

“Despite being up against a strong wind in the first-half I felt we coped well with it and created chances whilst restricting them to very few.

“We should really have been two or three ahead at the break what with Lee Ndlovu hitting the bar and having a shot cleared off the line and Dan Udoh also having a shot well saved.

“The second-half saw us have to be patient but I wanted more penetration and although we had to wait for the goals they were all excellent.

“I was pleased with the clean sheet because they had to work hard for it. The fact is that 3-0 sounds way better than 4-1 or 5-2 and having lost at Workington the week before it was great to see.

“When chances are being missed at the other end it can put pressure on the defence. We saw it a lot earlier this season when we were creating lots of chances but not scoring enough and then conceding too many at the other end.”

Watson took time out to praise the striking partnership of Udoh and Ndlovu after both netted again on Saturday.

The duo have scored regularly in the last couple of months and are working well to often create chances for each other.

Watson said: “Lee has been a threat ever since he arrived here whereas Dan has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few weeks.

“It’s pleasing to see them both working together so well because a good striking partnership can be worth so much to any team.

“I felt Saturday’s game was the best they’d had together as a pairing. One would get the ball, turn and the other would be there to pick it up.

“Dan created a lot for himself too and the fact they both scored was a bonus, as was Mike Williams returning with a goal.

“But overall it was a good display. If anything, given we created 13 good chances in the whole game, perhaps we need to work on our finishing!”

Ilkeston fielded an even younger side than usual in the Derbyshire Senior Cup on Monday night and were beaten 2-1 by Long Eaton United.

Speaking before the defeat, Watson had said he wanted to have a look at some players who have been on the fringes of the first team, adding: “I’ve also got to be mindful of taking too many risks as we’ve got two more with injuries now - Charlie Coulson and Aiden Print both with abdominal problems that will keep them out for a little while and Dexter Atkinson still not quite ready.”

Following the trip to Rushall Olympic on Saturday, they face more cup football next Monday with the rearranged Doodson Sport Cup tie at home to Lincoln United, with Watson again expected to shuffle his pack.

Next Wednesday sees the Robins’ U18 side welcome Newcastle United to the New Manor Ground in the FA Youth Cup third round.

Ilkeston have beaten Burton Albion and Shrewsbury Town to reach this stage, with the Premier League side’s youngsters expected to attract a good crowd to the NMG.

To see a feature on the Robins’ youth setup and the thoughts of coach Steve Welsh and chief executive Nigel Harrop on Wednesday’s match, turn to pages 52 and 53.