Ilkeston Town boss Lee Fowler was full of praise for his players after they secured three vital points against fellow title chasers Sporting Khalsa in front of a four-figure New Manor Ground crowd on Saturday.
The Robins won 3-0 thanks to first-half goals from Elliott Reeves (2) and Billy Bennett, the result putting them six points clear at the top of the table, aided by Walsall Wood and Westfields drawing 2-2 in a second v third-placed encounter in the West Midlands.
And it all capped an excellent day for Fowler who was delighted with how his players stuck to his game plan.
He said: “I’m delighted to have got the win, especially given other results went for us as well.
“There’s no doubt about it, Khalsa are a good team. I’d done my homework on them having watched them twice and set up a game plan to isolate them and make us stronger and it came to the fore.
“I said to the lads that if they listen to the information we give them then they’ll do well as they’re a very good team, and they executed the game plan perfectly.
“It was a 90-minute performance. We had injuries and lost Richard Brodie with what looks like cruciate ligament damage just a few minutes into his debut, as well as Elliott Reeves getting a nasty cut, but if you want to win titles you have to put your body on the line.
“The one thing I didn’t expect from them was to play a high line but they did and we kept getting in behind them all of the time, although we perhaps got caught offside a bit too often.
“So it played into our hands a little bit.”
Fowler says he and his coaching staff are now enforcing something of a zero tolerance policy when it comes to discipline as the season reaches its climax and the Robins aim to clinch promotion.
He said: “We’ve really got to turn the screw now and there will be no more being late for training or missing it altogether, for example, and we’re expecting them to put the work in both on and off the pitch as well as away from training, to give ourselves the best possible chance of promotion.”
Fowler also paid tribute to the Ilkeston fans for turning out in huge numbers for Saturday’s game, with 1,022 present in what was the highest attendance of the season so far.
He said: “It makes you proud in the sense that the town is supporting the club again after what I think was a bit of a lack of trust that had formed with the old club.
“If we can keep a lot of the fans that came on Saturday coming regularly, and make them enjoy the product that they’re given, then there’s no reason why we can’t be getting 6-700 at least to every game remaining here this season.
“They are going to play a massive part as they invest financially and emotionally, and the lads will respond with good performances.
“You get National League North clubs who can’t get 1,000 through the gate so it’s testament to our fans that they turn up in numbers, pay their hard-earned money and we aim to give them value for it.”
The Robins now prepare to head to Lye Town this weekend to face a side who sit 14th in the table.