Backlog of games may work in Robins’ favour

Ilkeston fc v Sutton Coldfield. New Ilkeston manager Shaun Goater.
Ilkeston fc v Sutton Coldfield. New Ilkeston manager Shaun Goater.

The lack of any football matches to talk about is something of a hindrance when one writes a regular column on the game but the good old British weather has dictated that is the case once again.

The micro-climate that is Buxton produced one of its regular call-offs last weekend - that match now rearranged for a Tuesday night in April which, irrespective of the weather the rest of us are having, might just survive if the Peak District can emerge from its winter shell in good time.

I’m then writing this just after discovering that my Tuesday night will once again be spent working in a nice warm study at home rather than on a freezing cold press bench at Ilkeston.

There’s not much you can do about the weather and one of the downsides of the NPL season being relatively short (the last regular games are on April 22) is that when the winter is still doing its thing in February, it doesn’t allow much time to cram the rearranged games in.

As Shaun Goater says in the piece I did with him this week, regular games are a good thing if the results are going well as the momentum generated can make a massive difference. The young Ilkeston players’ fitness levels also mean a packed schedule shouldn’t be as punishing.

That will be put to the test given the run of games Ilkeston will face in their fight against the drop. The flipside, of course, is that if the results aren’t happening then it can work the other way.

Two games in three days await this weekend with Warrington coming to town on Saturday and then the return match with Hednesford in the West Midlands next Monday.

The brief remains simple for Ilkeston, win as many games as possible and hope plenty of those teams around them don’t.

Two games hasn’t been enough to really assess Goater’s credentials but he’s had plenty of time with the players in the last couple of weeks so I’d expect much more understanding of his methods when it comes to Saturday’s match with Warrington, who as I write this are taking a bit of a pasting in the first-half at Nantwich.

He speaks well and has some genuine enthusiasm for the task he’s taken on. He likes the ethos at Ilkeston, although admits it creates more of a challenge when it comes to recruiting players given the perameters set, but he knew the challenges when he took the job on and is embracing it.

Quite whether his enthusiasm will remain should a few wins not come his way soon remains to be seen.

Looking at how things stand with 15 games still to play for the Robins, it’s all going to hang on how quickly they can get the four or five wins they’ll need to at least start making things look interesting.

Without those they can forget staying up. Get them, and a few of the teams outside the relegation zone might start getting dragged further in.

All of the teams in the relegation zone alongside Ilkeston are picking up results at the moment, whilst the likes of Marine and Frickley just outside it are stuttering, although Marine have just changed their manager.

Ilkeston’s games in hand could play a massive part in proceedings but only if they win them. Were they to do that then any of the teams up to and probably including Halesowen in 18th could start worrying that they could be overhauled, and it’s worth remembering the Robins still have to play a few of them before the season is out.

So, starting this weekend, it’s a massive job on but not an impossible one to stay up. I’ll maintain that with the current set of players alone they won’t do it, but with a couple of shrewd additions it might well happen with a few favours from those above them in the table.