Duffers’ Diary: Ilkeston FC youth team shows future is bright for club

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I’ll start this week’s column by talking about something that happened last week, namely Ilkeston’s exit to Newcastle United in the FA Youth Cup.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the game, because although Newcastle’s first team are of course a Premier League side it didn’t mean the gulf between the two youth squads would be as big as if it were the clubs’ first teams meeting.

As it transpired, there really wasn’t much between the sides. The Robins were unlucky to be 3-0 down at half-time and at that point I just hoped it wouldn’t become a real thumping, but two quickfire goals from sub Roy Lee suddenly made things very interesting in the second-half.

Had Ilkeston got an equaliser I’d actually have made them favourites to go on and win the game.

I was sat next to AFC Wimbledon’s academy boss Mark Robinson and he was very impressed by what Ilkeston had to offer and seemed quite relieved his team has avoided playing them, although a trip up to St James’s Park was hardly a favourable draw either!

All in all though it was a great showcase of what Ilkeston FC is all about. There’s a lot of debate about whether Ilkeston FC is a football club with an academy or an academy with a football club attached, but the two seem to be running hand in hand very well at the moment and I hope that continues.

The first team had a frustrating day on Saturday against Marine - it was one of those ‘had they played all night they wouldn’t have scored’ situations.

The good home form could be crucial as the season goes on and it’s really important that the Robins are so hard to beat on their own patch, particularly as patchy home form has arguably cost them promotion in the past.

The batch of games over Christmas can always produce unpredictable results but my forecast is at least six points from the games with Mickleover, Buxton and Darlington which should keep Ilkeston firmly in pursuit of the play-off spots.

A very merry Christmas to you all.