Gavin Strachan continued to put the finishing touches to his Ilkeston FC squad this week as the new Evo-Stik Premier Division season looms large.
The Robins host Skelmersdale United on August 15 in the season’s opening league fixture, with a final friendly at Belper Town this weekend rounding off their pre-season schedule.
Speaking before Tuesday night’s penultimate friendly at Basford United which ended in a 0-0 draw, Strachan says there are still things that need working on but that he is pleased with the progress being made.
He said: “We’re learning all the time what we’re going to need to fine tune ahead of the first games.
“The recent friendlies against sides like Bedworth and Gresley have given us a taste of the physical side of things we’re likely to come up against and that’s why games like that and the ones with Basford and Belper are so important to our preparation.
“But the players are working really hard and we’re raring to go. It’s been a long pre-season given how early we arrived here, which was necessary given the amount of work we had to do to rebuild the squad and set up the infrastructure, so like the fans we’re keen for the real thing to get going!”
Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Gresley saw Ilkeston give away a two-goal lead late on, and while the result matters little in pre-season, Strachan felt valuable lessons need to be learned.
He said: “We’d made a few changes so that didn’t help as it meant we were a bit disjointed, but there were some players we wanted to get a good look at.
“I was disappointed with how we did a few things on Saturday and it’s given us food for thought in training this week, especially learning to cope with how quickly some sides try and get the ball forward.
“Even though it’s only a friendly you still want to win to boost the morale so it was a shame we gave the lead away, although the equaliser was an unbelievable strike.”
On the scoresheet for Ilkeston on Saturday was veteran striker Lee Hughes. The 39-year-old was a regular scorer in the Conference Premier last season having had a long career in the Football League and Premier League.
Strachan said: “Andy Watson and I know Lee from our respective careers and I’d spoken to him to say that if he wanted somewhere to train and to get some fitness and match time he was welcome to come and join up with us.
“He took us up on that offer and looked really sharp on Saturday.
“It’s a ‘wait and see’ situation really. There are lots of clubs from higher up who are interested in signing Lee as even though he’s 39 he’s still got plenty of goals in him.
“If he wants to stay with us then we’ll see what we can do but it was good to have him in and around the squad on Saturday.”