Ilkeston Town ready for title showdown

Lee Fowler
Lee Fowler

Ilkeston Town will face the biggest game in the re-formed club’s short history on Saturday when Walsall Wood come to the New Manor Ground.

The first versus second clash sees Ilkeston go into the game three points ahead of their rivals with three games to play and also holding a superior goal difference.

Victory would all but seal the title, with a point at already-relegated Dunkirk then being enough to ensure the honours on Bank Holiday Monday.

And for boss Lee Fowler, victory is exactly what his side will be playing for.

He said: “There will be no degree of caution from our point of view - we want to win the game and will be aiming to do so.

“Yes, if we lose then it will still be in our hands going into the final two games, but that’s not something we intend to have to worry about.

“We’ll have one hand on the trophy if we beat them and I believe we can do that.”

Fowler became Ilkeston’s third manager of the season when he took over in December following the departure of Martin McIntosh, and after a difficult start has masterminded the Robins’ continued possession of top spot.

He said: “It was hard at the start as I had no time to work with the players until after we’d played two or three games.

“But once things settled down we performed much better, albeit the away form was disappointing.

“The win at Long Eaton was, for me, massive, because not only did it end the run without an away win but we had to show our battling and physical side too and it showed us that we can be like that if needed.

“So to be in the position we are in now after how things were when I got here is down to some great work by the players and performances that have improved as we’ve gone on.”

Walsall Wood were Ilkeston’s nemesis last season when both clubs were battling for promotion from Division One, Wood winning out on that occasion with Ilkeston promoted after the end of the season thanks to league restructuring.

And with Darren Byfield’s side being full of experienced players who have again impressed, Fowler knows it will be a tough test on Saturday.

He said: “We had them watched and they have a very regimented style of play and a strong front three.

“But I’ve got a strong front five and having sat down with the players on Saturday and talked them through what to expect, we’ll be more than ready for them.”

It is expected to be the biggest attendance at the New Manor Ground this season, with as many as 2,000 potentially coming to the game.

But Fowler says his players won’t be fazed by that.

He said: “We’ve had a few big gates this season, including a couple in four figures, and if anything the players thrive on it, which they have to if they’re keen to play at higher levels.

“It has a better effect on them than if they’re playing in front of the very small crowds we’ve encountered once or twice, so hopefully the fans will cheer us on and help carry us over the line.”