Watson says Robins will take nobody for granted

Andy Watson has been delighted with the start to his career as head coach at Ilkeston, the Robins having won all six games of his tenure so far.
Andy Watson has been delighted with the start to his career as head coach at Ilkeston, the Robins having won all six games of his tenure so far.

Ilkeston FC will head into this weekend looking for their sixth straight win as Division One South side Stocksbridge Park Steels come to the New Manor Ground in the FA Trophy.

All of those victories have come under the tutelage of head coach Andy Watson, his 100 per cent record maintained at Rugby Town on Tuesday night with a 2-0 win in the Doodson Sport Cup.

But despite the fine run of form and a team from the division below being Saturday’s visitors, Watson says he will allow no room for complacency.

He said: “On any given day, if you’re not on your game and the other team sense that, you could find yourselves up against it.

“I’ll therefore be stressing the importance of maintaining not only our concentration but also our respect for our opponents, no matter what division they’re in.

“The FA Cup saw us find out the hard way what can happen if you don’t apply yourselves against a side from a lower division and although a lot has changed since then, the same argument stands.”

Last Saturday saw the Robins get an unscheduled day off as the trip to Skelmersdale was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

That denied Watson the chance to reintroduce some of the players recently out injured, but he was instead able to give many of them valuable minutes in the win at Rugby, something he was delighted to have the chance to do.

He said: “We had JJ Blake, Curtis Burrows, Danny Gordon, Lee Ndlovu and Aiden Print all back after injury which was great to see.

“The only problem I had was that I could only use three subs so some of the lads got more minutes than ideally we’d have liked, but although they’ll be a bit sore and will need a few games to really get back up to speed, all of them coped well.”

With another clean sheet in the bag - Ilkeston’s second in a row - Watson was keen to highlight the importance of having become such a tough team to break down since the Robins changed to having three centre-backs.

He said: “Before, we were often creating plenty of chances and scoring goals but we were simply letting in too many.

“Now we’re winning games 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 more often which is obviously making a massive difference.

“We now need to progress to try and dominate games for longer, because we’ve frequently been having good first halves of games before then having to dig in more in the second-half to protect a lead.

“We’ve shown great quality and resilience to do that and it’s been very pleasing, but if we can do ourselves a favour by being on top in games for longer then it can only be a good thing.”

Stocksbridge sit mid-table in Division One South and beat Northwich Victoria in the first qualifying round to earn Saturday’s trip to Derbyshire.

Watson added: “We just need to continue playing our own game and if we can do that, with the quality we’ve got, we should win the game.

“It’s important we get through as the FA Trophy is a big deal and the rewards are great if you can progress a long way.

“What I’m keen to see is our standards maintained. It’s been good to get so many players back in the team because it means there are more fighting for the shirts and those who have them will want to keep them. If any players show signs that they’re not up to the challenge or maintaining their quality, they know they will lose their place in the team.”

Meanwhile, Ilkeston’s under-18s will host Shrewsbury Town next Wednesday night in the second round of the FA Youth Cup.

The young Robins, containing several players with first team experience, beat Burton Albion on penalties last week after a 0-0 draw in front of around 200 people at the New Manor Ground.

Should Shrewsbury also be overcome, there is the chance of drawing a Premier League or Championship club in the third round, ties being played in the main stadiums of the host team.

Kick-off at the New Manor Ground will be 7.45pm with admission costing £3 for adults, £1 concessions and children free with a paying adult.