Watson delighted by Robins’ rally at Rushall

Ilkeston players congratulate Lee Ndlovu (holding ball) after he equalised at Rushall. Photo by Craig Lamont.
Ilkeston players congratulate Lee Ndlovu (holding ball) after he equalised at Rushall. Photo by Craig Lamont.

Andy Watson praised his Ilkeston FC players on Tuesday night after they fought back to earn a point at Rushall Olympic.

Having found themselves 2-0 down with 17 minutes to go Ilkeston responded well to quickly haul themselves level and could well have won the game had late domination produced another goal.

But Watson was able to take plenty of positives from the display.

He said: “I think the turning point was us getting a goal back straight after their second.

“That gave us the forward momentum and belief that we could get at least a draw and in the final 15 minutes we were the dominant force.

“It was frustrating to find ourselves 2-0 down because it had been a fairly even game, but we were undone by a counter attack and then a penalty.

“Overall though there were lots of positives. Young Jamie Hannis did well in goal and produced a couple of good saves, there was lots of energy from the likes of Mike Williams and Joe Doyle, JJ Blake got on the ball much more which is important and it was great to see Lee Ndlovu come on and make the kind of impact I’d asked him to make, not just with his goal but his general play too.”

Ilkeston will head back to the West Midlands on Saturday with a visit to Sutton Coldfield Town.

Their hosts play on an artificial 3G surface, a factor Watson isn’t a fan of but believes won’t cause his team too many problems.

He said: “It’s often older players who don’t like them as they can affect their knees and things that bit more!

“With the weather having been bad in the last few weeks we’ve had to train quite a lot on artificial pitches so we’ve got quite familiar with them.

“I’m a traditionalist and don’t think these pitches should become the norm, even if would reduce the number of postponed games.

“I’ve encountered them over the years and in a similar way to having to adapt to poor pitches due to bad weather, you have to learn to adapt to these surfaces too.”

Ilkeston will then be quickly back in action with the visit of Frickley Athletic on Monday night, looking to gain revenge for a 3-1 defeat to Karl Rose’s side earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, three more of Ilkeston’s talented young academy side have signed professional contracts with the club.

Max Thornberry, Roy Lee and Brandon Clarke have all played starring roles for the academy this season, Lee having scored twice against Newcastle United in the FA Youth Cup third round.

Academy manager Steve Welsh said: “All three have worked very hard and applied themselves well during the season and the encouraging thing with these signings is that two of them are still first year students.

“They have all got the raw ability, they now need refining over the next couple of months and then hopefully, as the months go on, they’ll be in contention for first team squads.”

Clarke joined Ilkeston having spent his formative years at Nottingham Forest and Burton Albion.

Lee spent five years with Doncaster Rovers before arriving at the New Manor Ground last summer, while Thornberry came through the junior setup at Nottingham Forest before being released as a 16-year-old.

*More fixtures have been rearranged following several postponements.

Ilkeston will make two long trips to the north-east on Tuesday nights, Blyth Spartans the hosts on February 9 and Darlington on March 8.

The trip to Buxton has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, whilst the home game with Halesowen Town, called off last Saturday due to a frozen pitch, will now be played on Saturday, March 19.