Ilkeston boss Paul Holland was delighted to see two late goals see his Robins side home 2-0 in their pre-season friendly at Staveley MW last night.
Mark Shelton broke through with two minutes to go and Liam Hearn wrapped it up in the last minute.
“I was delighted. It was exactly what I thought it would be,” smiled Holland.
“It was on a great surface against a team similar to what we are going to be coming up against this year.
“They play at a good tempo and it was a good test for us. Overall I was delighted.
Ilkeston’s superior fitness saw them through in the end and Holland said: “We looked very strong towards the end of the game and battled it out as we’re going to have to to in a lot of games this season.”
“It’s something I’ve focused the players on. We are classed as a full-time club, so we should be over-running teams fitness-wise.
“It’s important we keep ourselves in games and establish ourselves in games so we can show that fitness in the last 20 minutes of games.
“The lads have taken everything on board pre-season. It’s not about results in pre-season. I’ve been absolutely delighted in how they have adapted to a different style of play. They are buying into it and the spirit is as good as I’ve known it at the club at the minute.”
Although he is getting closer to his starting XI, Holland has not ruled out further strengthening his side.
“I’ve always said if someone comes along who would improve us then I’d be silly not to bring them in,” he said.
“I am speaking to Anton Brown daily and I am still confident of getting him. I know a few people are questioning whether that will still happen or not, but I am still extremely positive with that.
“If that doesn’t happen then I’ve got other things up my sleeve.
“There’s lots of things that can still happen between now and the first game of the season. I’ve been involved in football a long time and I’ve seen lads come in on a Friday morning before the first game of the season. Never rule anything out.” Among the players last night was a young trialist from Sierra Leone who Holland believes could make an impact, despite his tender years.
“It was just a phone call out of the blue mentioning a young boy who’d been at a boarding school in Uganda,” he explained. “He comes from Sierra Leone originally and he’s been playing in college football in Liverpool for the last year.
“He came down and got involved in one of the youth team games and after 15 minutes I liked what I saw and decided to have a look at him with the big boys.
“He did very well when he came on. He is only 16 but he’s definitely got something
“Age doesn’t matter to me. If he’s good enough and will improve what we’ve got then why not throw him in and have a look at him?
“He has a lot to learn, but so do a lot of the squad and it’s my job to help them on their way.”
A welcome sight last night was the return of keeper Ross Durrant and striker Liam Hearn from pre-season knocks.
“Ross has been an absolute credit since he’s been at the football club,” said Holland. “He has come in and worked hard and been a bit of a mentor for the other keepers.
“It was more a precaution with Ross as he had an awkward fall. He is very keen to play as much football as he can, but the medical people decided he should miss the game at the weekend, which he did, and he brilliantly for us last night.
“Liam played 90 minutes. I knew when I brought him in that I would have to manage him pre-season. As long as Liam is fit and firing on all cylinders on the 13th August, that’s been the plan with him all along.
“I’m not worried about him figuring in all the pre-season games.”
On Saturday Ilkeston welcome Derby County’s U21s for another friendly with match admission prices cut as a thank you to fans for their support.
“Derby will come here and be very technical,” said Holland. “They will look to keep the ball as a lot of the League clubs we’ve come up against have done so far.
“It is their U21s, so the club have recognised that and dropped admission prices as a thank you to the fans for their backing already in pre-season.
“There has been a lot of home games which comes at a cost. We want to integrate fans back into the club. Last year was a difficult season for everyone at the club.
“So far the vibes and positivity from the people I’ve spoken to have been brilliant, so I can’t wait for the first game of the season and I’m sure the fans can’t. The players are raring to go too.”