Boss Lee Fowler puts finishing touches to Ilkeston Town squad

Lee Fowler (right) is pictured with assistant manager Mark Clarke during the game with Belper United on Tuesday. Photo by Craig Lamont.
Lee Fowler (right) is pictured with assistant manager Mark Clarke during the game with Belper United on Tuesday. Photo by Craig Lamont.

Ilkeston Town boss Lee Fowler says he has more or less finalised his squad ahead of the new NPL South East campaign.

Having looked at several trialists over the course of the Robins’ pre-season friendlies so far, he expects the squad he takes to this weekend’s game at Basford United to consist entirely of players who are likely to feature when the competitive action starts on August 10 in the FA Cup.

And that will mean showing the exit door to some of those who have struggled to make the grade in recent weeks.

He said: “One or two of the trialists just haven’t been able to show they’re fit enough so we can’t really take the risk with them.

“But a lot of the players we’ve looked at have done very well and we’ll be announcing that a few are confirmed as signings before the weekend.

“We have a reduced budget compared to last year so we’ve had to be careful as to who we go for and ensure they are the right fit and can offer some versatility too.”

Fowler also added that he doesn’t expect defender Matt Baker to be among those who begin the new campaign with the club.

Baker was a fans’ favourite with Ilkeston FC and returned to be part of Ilkeston Town’s promotion-winning side last season, as well as featuring in some pre-season games this summer.

But Fowler said: “Matt came to help me out last season having had a bit of a sabbatical and is a great pro, but I think his confidence got knocked a bit by the Notts County game where he was at fault for a couple of the goals.

“But the door is always open to him - I genuinely think he can get back to being among the best in the division but it’s a mindset thing for him at the moment.”

Ilkeston ran out 3-1 winners over Belper United on Tuesday night, the East Midlands Counties League side having stepped in to replace AFC Telford United as opponents after Fowler felt a change in approach was needed following two heavy home defeats to Notts County and Solihull Moors.

He said: “I apologised to Telford for the change in plans and am grateful to Belper United for stepping in at short notice.

“In the last couple of games I’d noticed the players’ heads dropping a bit and those kinds of games, whilst good for working on some areas of our game, can be counter-productive if we’re getting thumped.

“So I felt I had to protect the players as the manner of those defeats wasn’t helping them.

“The Belper game was much better. We’re still not where we need to be but it was much more like we were last season.

“The goal we conceded was sloppy and I’d seen it coming with a chance they’d had not long before that - I don’t think we conceded from a set piece last year which was helped by the size of the team we had.

“We had a lot of chances and were let down by making the wrong decisions at times, which may be down to tiredness or not playing enough together, but it was a good game for us to work on our attacking patterns and how we want to play next season.

“It might not be pretty at times but that’s non-league football and you have to earn the right to play football by getting yourselves into good leads by doing the basics right.

“Then you can express yourself more like the way we did in the second-half tonight.”

Ilkeston head to Basford United on Saturday and have arranged a further friendly at Clifton All Whites next Tuesday (30th)

They’ll then go to Grantham Town on August 3 before their FA Cup extra preliminary round tie at Loughborough University on August 10.

The new BetVictor NPL South East season begins at home to Cleethorpes Town on August 17.