Defence delights boss as winning run goes on

Joe Burgess (no.4)  heads at goal during the win over Cambridge. Photo by Craig Lamont.
Joe Burgess (no.4) heads at goal during the win over Cambridge. Photo by Craig Lamont.

Andy Watson believes Saturday’s FA Trophy win at Cambridge City saw his Ilkeston FC side exhibit a different set of skills to seal their progress.

The 1-0 victory was the fourth successive win for Watson since he took over as head coach, sealed by Charlie Coulson’s first-half free-kick.

And with the Robins having to dig deep to hold on to the victory, Watson was pleased to see his defence take the plaudits.

He said: “The previous wins had often been down to good attacking play, although we ended up having to dig in deep against Grantham last week.

“This time, although we still created a good few chances, Cambridge were far more of an attacking threat in the second-half and we had to exhibit some very strong defensive work in order to keep ourselves ahead.

“We did that very well and restricted them to only two or three half chances, so a clean sheet was very pleasing, particularly as it was our first since I took over.

“Charlie Coulson scored at a great time and produced a great run that nearly produced another goal afterwards.

“It was a difficult pitch to play on, not helped by St Ives having had a match on it the night before, but we adapted quickly and coped well.”

Ilkeston will now host Division One South side Stocksbridge Park Steels in the second qualifying round on Saturday, November 14, Steels having beaten Northwich Victoria on Sunday to progress.

Watson added: “First and foremost it’s a home draw which is always a good thing but despite being up against a team from the level below we’ll take nothing for granted, I won’t allow that.”

Next up for Ilkeston is a trip to Skelmersdale United on Saturday, the Lancashire side having beaten Ilkeston 3-1 on the opening day of the season.

Then the Robins will travel to FA Cup conquerors Rugby Town next Tuesday in the Doodson Sport League Cup.

On the Skelmersdale game, Watson said: “A lot has changed since the opening day but what we do know is that they are a useful outfit.

“We just need to take our own brand and style hopefully it’ll pose them enough problems. I went to watch them at Hyde on Monday night and although the match only lasted 20 minutes due to the fog, I learned enough about them to be prepared for Saturday’s game.”

Meanwhile, on-loan goalkeeper Ross Durrant has returned to Nottingham Forest after an impressive loan spell with the Robins.

The teenager was recalled ahead of Forest’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and was promptly named on the subs’ bench for the encounter, anothe rformer Ilkeston loanee in the shape of Dimitar Evtimov starting the game for Dougie Freedman’s men.

Watson, who recalled Brazilian Evandro Rachoni between the sticks for the Cambridge match, said: “We had a call on Friday from Dougie Freedman saying that an injury to one of his goalkeepers meant he’d need to recall Ross.

“He’d done really well for us and it was pleasing that he was recalled in order to be part of the first team squad at the weekend.

“I had no hesitation in bringing Evandro back into the team as he’d played in a match against Mickleover a couple of days before and done really well. He’s been patient in waiting for his chance to get back in the team and now has a chance to stay there if he performs well.”

Watson says several of the players recently injured are now back in contention, although there are still two or three who remain on the sidelines.

He said: “We had Aiden Print, Lee Ndlovu and Jordan Wheatley on the bench on Saturday so they could well play a part this weekend.

“JJ Blake and Danny Gordon are both back running but won’t be ready quite yet, while Liam Marshall remains a bit further off.”

Last night (Wednesday) saw Ilkeston’s U18 side take on Burton Albion in the first round proper of the FA Youth Cup at the New Manor Ground.

Should Ilkeston have won the tie, they will be at home to either Shrewsbury Town or Telford United later this month.