Between the bawling and the back-slapping, management is a subtle thing. You have a young squad who work wonders and what do you do?
You bring in a fresh batch and still coax excellence from the players who have done so well for you. That’s what Kevin Wilson managed as he improved Ilkeston’s grip on the play-off zone and weakened Skelmersdale’s prospects.
It was achieved largely by his regulars with the addition of right-back Mitchell Rose and the return of Kane Richards, back from Conference side Chester with all his pace and perhaps even more menace. Ex-Robin Jack Watts also did a useful job as a sub.
It was no easy task against United, who were runaway leaders until the Robins came calling in November and won 4-1.
The visitors could have taken a half-time lead but for keeper Jordan Smith who saved brilliantly from midfielder Alan Burton and then adroitly from centre-back Robert McIntosh.
At the other end, Richards was scorching the turf and James Reid was producing fiendish crosses from the left. Rob Duffy came close but the best Ilkeston first-half effort was from captain Joe Maguire with a header which drifted wide from a Reid free kick.
But back to the bawling. “You’ve got to do better than that,” yelled Wilson from the TV gantry a few minutes later. Soon he borrowed a World War One recruiting slogan and shouted: “Come on, we need you.”
Encouragement and tactics were served with the half-time tea. Assistant manager Steve Chettle came onto the pitch to talk to Watts and another sub Mike Williams, who were enjoying a kick-about.
Within a minute, David Morgan burst through, only for his shot to rise over the bar.
Morgan freed Reid who forced a good save from United keeper Steve James, bu things were about to happen. Coach Chettle showed subs diagrams in a blue folder. On came Watts and Mike Williams, programmed for action.
Richards was only stopped by three opponents and the breakthrough arrived in 75 minutes. Maguire did his Alan Shearer impersonation by heading home Reid’s corner despite the attention of two United men.
United had a moment of hope when Burton saw his chance. Matt Baker saw it too. The tackle had to be perfect and it was.
It was a moment to savour but the Robins were about to produce another. On 78 minutes, Callum Chettle took the ball in midfield. . .but let the 18-year-old describe the goal and its inspiration.
“It must have been about 25 yards. I took a touch round the player. The gaffer said at half-time to shoot because it was windy and could blow in and so I did.” Was it his best goal of the season? “I don’t get many so ‘yes,’” he added.
Wilson put the goal in a wider context, saying: “If it had been on Match of the Day or the Football League Show they would have been raving about it.”
Skelmersdale had defender Rob Bodie sent off in the 90th minute for a tackle on Williams, who needed treatment, but the points were safe in the bank by then.
Afterwards, Wilson explained how he tackled the issue of recruitment on deadline day.
“Bringing in players was no reflection on the squad and what they have done. We are trying to have a bit more strength to make sure we get in the play-offs”
“It will be a squad game until the end of the season.”
Saturday, March 28:
Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith 2 Mitch Rose 3 James Reid 4 Matt Baker 5 Joe Maguire (c) 6 Jack Lane 7 David Morgan 8 Callum Chettle 9 Rob Duffy (Mike Williams 71) 10 Kane Richards 11 Jack Sowerby (Jack Watts 57). Subs not used: Ross Colquhoun, Jake Wright, Curtis Burrows
Skelmersdale: 1 Steve James 2 Valtar Fernandes 3 Shaun Holden 4 Rob McIntosh 5 Rob Bodie 6 Aiden Kirkbride (Paul Woolcott 70) 7 Joe Whittington (Peter Wylie 67) 8 Alan Burton 9 Danny Mitchley 10 Scott Bakkor (Warren Bellew 87) 11 Kenny Strickland. Subs not used: Dale Wright, Tony Rendell
Ref: J Hull
Star Robin: Matt Baker