Duffers’ Diaries: Lincoln experiments give cause for optimism

Monday night’s League Cup tie with Lincoln United actually turned out to be more interesting than it might have been.

I say that because initially it looked like it would be sandwiched between league games and probably see several fringe members of the squad feature rather than Ilkeston’s strongest team.

In the end, the Darlington postponement dictated it was important that firstteam regulars got some game time rather than an extended break after the Matlock game.

Not only did that increase the Robins’ chances of winning, which they did comfortably, but it gave us a chance to see a couple of players tried out in different positions.

Jordan Wheatley has become a regular starter at centre-half and word is that there is very solid interest in him from clubs as high as the Premier League.

On Monday, Wheatley played in more of a holding midfield role and looked just as accomplished there as he does at the back. He appears to be very comfortable on the ball and his distribution is excellent.

Not only that, he got on the scoresheet too in stoppage time with a run and finish that any top striker would be proud of.

I think it’s only a matter of time before some bids come in for him but while he’s at Ilkeston, he’ll remain a huge asset on the pitch.

Lewis Walker was deployed in a wider role than I’d seen him play before and was really effective.

He leads the line well when playing as the head of a three-pronged attack, but the kind of ‘inside forward’ role he had on Monday saw him regularly beat players out wide and also get on the scoresheet.

I’d be interested now to see whether Andy Watson plays those two in the same positions at Barwell on Saturday, particularly with Liam Marshall being fit meaning Wheatley could be sacrificed from the back three to push into midfield.

That might mean Joe Doyle or JJ Blake dropping to the bench again but if it works, these things have to be tried, particularly as Ilkeston haven’t won for a few league games.

So as I say, what was originally going to be a routine cup tie in a competition I’m not usually a fan of, actually turned out to be a useful experiment for Andy Watson and his coaching staff and one I’m sure they’ll have been pleased with.

Barwell provide the opposition on Saturday. They’ve had a tough few weeks with a some heavy defeats so it could be a good time for Ilkeston to play them. I’m writing this before they host Rushall on Tuesday, a game I’m sure Andy Watson will be at given the Robins face both in the next fortnight.

Happy New Year to you all, here’s to a great 2016 for the Robins.

Twitter: @DuffersSport