ILKESTON FC boss Kevin Wilson firmly believes his side can still win the Evo-Stik Division One South title – despite a congested fixture list for the rest of the season.
The postponement of last Saturday’s home game with Leek Town means that match, along with the visit of Sutton Coldfield Town, has been re-arranged for a Monday night later on in the campaign.
But Wilson believes his mainly youthful squad can cope with the backlog, and that if results go their way the momentum gained could in fact be a huge help.
He said: “It’s not been too bad so far as we’re only a couple of fixtures behind, so I’m not unduly worred at this stage.
“We’ll have a couple of Saturday/Monday double-headers again but we’ve coped quite well with those up to now, and there are plenty of home games to look forward to as well.
“The problem with these runs of games only comes if you’re losing as it’s hard to get out of that rut. But if you’re winning then the momentum they generate can be a huge benefit.
“We set out this season with three targets. The first was to avoid relegation which I think we can say we’ve now achieved, the second was to get enough points to make the play-offs and then if that happens then we can look at having a shot at the title.
“There’s no pressure on us as a lot of people have already written us off. We’ve got a good run-in and I honestly think the final game at Grantham could still be crucial.”
The Robins will be boosted by the return of Nottingham Forest loanee Ben Gathercole for this weekend’s match at Romulus.
The young goalkeeper has been out injured since November but is expected to start Saturday’s game, with Wilson glad to have him back.
“It’ll be like having a new signing. Ben did very well before he was injured, and now he’s fit Forest have stood by their promise to let us have him back,” said Wilson.
“We’ve been lucky in that the keepers we’ve used have largely done very well, including Scott Low from the academy who made his debut against Loughborough - something which will be a real shot in the arm for the other academy players in terms of them having a chance in the first team.”
The Romulus game will be the second time this season Ilkeston have played on the 3G pitch at the ground their hosts share with Sutton Coldfield Town.
Wilson isn’t a big fan of the artificial surface but is confident the Robins’ style won’t be too affected.
He said: “We trained on the 3G pitch at Kirk Hallam last Saturday but since then any other attempts to get a similar surface to train on have been thwarted by the snow.
“It can be a bit tricky when wet as the ball tends to move around a lot quicker, and also the bounce can sometimes be a bit unpredictable, but I think if you’re not careful you can sometimes over-adapt so we’ll go there and try and play our normal game.
“I think more and more teams will use artificial pitches in the future, particularly as the technology is continuing to improve - as shown by the 4G pitch the rugby club Widnes have just installed.
“I prefer grass of course but with there being so many community benefits to these surfaces too, I can see them becoming a lot more popular.”