Robins’ set piece woes frustrate boss Watson

Andy Watson
Andy Watson

Head coach Andy Watson says Ilkeston FC’s recent struggle to defend effectively at set pieces has been a key factor in them losing five straight league games.

A 3-0 defeat at home to Workington was the latest setback for the Robins, two of the Cumbrians’ goals coming from set piece situations.

Add those to the numerous goals conceded in similar situations in recent weeks, and Watson has been left with a frustrating problem to deal with.

He said: “In the game at Darlington and to an extent against Workington there wasn’t a great deal between to the two sides apart from goals that we conceded from set pieces and which made the difference to the scoreline.

“I think we’ve conceded eight or nine like that in this poor run.

“It’s frustrating for all of us, the players and the fans, but we are working very hard on it in training.

“One of the problems is that we lack anyone over about six foot tall in the squad, which not only hampers us in defensive situations but also when it comes to working on them in training.

“But we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to work at it and be aware of it and set up accordingly to minimise it.

“We need to stop giving away soft free-kicks and even try and avoid conceding unnecessary throw-ins in defensive positions given how many teams have long throw specialists - something we’ve struggled to cope with recently.”

Speaking before Wednesday night’s League Cup semi-final win at Kidsgrove Athletic, Watson said he has sympathy for his young squad given the current run the club is on.

He added: “It’s not through lack of commitment. Their attitude is 100 per cent and I feel for them as they are putting so much in. We are just giving too much away in terms of height and muscle, which is always a danger when the average age of the squad is so young.”

Watson was able to register more players for the first team squad against Workington having previously been hampered by restrictions imposed by the Northern Premier League, thought to revolve around an administrative issue.

David Jones and Max Thornberry were named as subs with Jones playing the entire second-half - the latest in a line of Bermudans to have worn the Robins shirt.

Watson added: “I thought David did well. He held the ball up well and competed on the second ball so I was pleased.

“Max is one of a few I feel could really kick on next season if we can give him a good pre-season and get some meat on him as he’ll need that to cope with the physical side.

“There are a few others like Roy Lee and Tevahn Tyrell, the latter another Bermudan import, who it would be good to have a look at as they’ve been doing so well for the youth team.

“We were obviously low on numbers for a little while but the situation seems to have been sorted and hopefully we can have a full complement available to us on matchday for the rest of the season.”

Ilkeston host Halesowen Town on Saturday just a fortnight after being beaten 2-0 by the Yeltz on their own patch.

Victory on Wednesday at Kidsgrove earned another away trip in the semi-final, this time to Scarborough Athletic next Tuesday night.

Watson, meanwhile, also took time out to praise the level of support Ilkeston have continued to receive despite their recent poor league form.

He said: “We really appreciate the commitment of the supporters who are continuing to come to home games and also those who travel in great numbers to away games.

“It’s never taken for granted as these things take time and commitment. The fans are hopefully seeing that we are trying to do the right thing and are working hard and I hope to see the support continue until the end of the season and beyond.”