Once again I’ve waited until Tuesday night to write this column given the effect the midweek games have had on Ilkeston’s potential fortunes this coming weekend.
FC United are champions and deservedly so. They’ve been consistent where others haven’t and as always in these situations, the table doesn’t lie.
As for the play-off race, Ilkeston are very much in it, albeit not perhaps as comfortably as they might have liked at this stage.
The plan is simple, beat Nantwich Town and they’ll have a play-off semi-final on either Monday or Tuesday, and then with a bit of luck a final on May 2!
It sounds simple but the reality is different. Blyth Spartans will overtake Ilkeston if they get a better result than the Robins, although they’re at home to Marine who are fighting to stay in the division so there is plenty to play for there.
One guarantee is that should Ilkeston get through they won’t be at home in the semi-final, the most likely scenario at the moment being another trip to second-placed Workington next Tuesday which perhaps wouldn’t have been the semi-final they’d have hand-picked if given the choice!
The reasons for that were highlighted for the second time in a month last Saturday as Workington proved by far the better side in a 3-0 win at the New Manor Ground.
As my match report highlights, there was little on show from Ilkeston to suggest they are in great shape for the potential challenge ahead but the play-offs themselves could really be looked at as a clean slate should they get there.
They’d have to forget the recent blips against Grantham and Workington and remember just how good they can be when they put their minds to it, even if fatigue is threatening to get the better of them.
As Kevin Wilson says in the back page story, the squad have done incredibly well to still be in the play-off picture going into the final day, even if performances have dropped a little in recent weeks.
With the changes happening at the NMG this may or may not be the best chance Ilkeston have to get out of this division for a while so it’s one they have to do their absolute best to take if the opportunity arises.
As for Saturday, hosts Nantwich only have pride to play for now they’re safe from relegation, but Grantham had nothing to play for either yet were victors over Ilkeston a fortnight ago.
For what it’s worth, I expect Ilkeston to get the result they need in Cheshire and secure a play-off spot.
What will then follow will be the biggest week in the club’s short history, and hopefully the most rewarding.