It’s been another one of those weeks where you’re left wondering just where Ilkeston FC’s season is really going.
An overdue win was finally recorded at Sutton Coldfield to give the play-off push a welcome boost, but then two days later the Robins fell at home in what by all accounts was pretty lacklustre fashion against Frickley Athletic.
I tweeted at the time that, with all due respect to the likes of Barwell and Frickley, if you’re being beaten comfortably by sides in the mid to lower reaches of the table (as Barwell were when they faced Ilkeston) when your aspirations are to finish high up then something needs to change.
It’s a division where anyone can beat anyone else, we know that, but by and large the sides who are challenging for the promotion spots tend to pick up points against those in mid-table and below.
What’s concerning me at the moment is that on current form, Ilkeston’s very young team won’t be able to sustain a play-off challenge.
The aim at the start of this campaign wasn’t necessarily to get promotion, particularly with so many changes having happened on and off the pitch and that having continued throughout the campaign.
But do they just keep with what they’ve got and let things potentially slip further, or is it worth trying to get some new blood in to help pick up some more regular wins again and revive the challenge for the top five?
Doing the latter won’t be easy. Players have to be the right fit and at the moment that’s someone who preferably can train full-time, doesn’t want to earn much money and at the same time is better than what’s already on offer.
Andy Watson, who I have every faith in as being the man to take Ilkeston forward, has said he’s always on the lookout but it’s proving hard to find players to fit that mould.
More experience would undoubtedly help no end but they’d probably have to be players who won’t train every day. I don’t see that as being a huge problem as long as they can train at least twice a week (even if schedules are altered accordingly), because if you’re good enough then it’s surely worth making that allowance for.
Some of the key figures from last season’s squad such as James Reid, Joe Maguire and Rob Duffy were all part-time and yet they are the kind of players Ilkeston are really missing this year.
The Ilkeston ethos is one I’ve supported from the start but I fear patience may start to run out amongst fans if promotion doesn’t become a real possibility in the next 18 months or so.
I don’t expect Ilkeston will alter their way of doing things too much and I’m not dictating that they should, but, based on how certain aspects of this season have gone, I fear at the moment that promotion won’t be achieved this year or potentially in the near future if the average age of the squad remains too young in what is very much a man’s league.
I remain hopeful, however, that I am proved wrong!