Watson delighted for Dolan after Barnsley move

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Rhys Dolan became the latest member of the well-renowned Ilkeston FC academy to earn a move into the Football League this week after signing a three-year deal with Barnsley.

Dolan, 17, put pen to paper on the deal on Monday, with Ilkeston having agreed a fee with the Tykes just before Christmas.

That fee is undisclosed but the deal is also believed to include various add-ons including clauses related to appearances and future transfer fees.

Speaking to Barnsley’s official club website, Dolan said, “I’m delighted to sign for the club. It’s a very exciting opportunity and I can’t wait to get going.

“I’d like to thank everyone at Ilkeston who has helped me to where I am so far.”

Tykes boss Lee Johnson added: “It’s great news to have Rhys on board and it’s also great to see our hard work in recruiting the best young talent out there come to fruition.

“Rhys is a good defender and loves to get forward, he has good potential and we’re looking forward to him working hard under Paul Heckingbottom and Martin Devaney in our Under 21s.”

Ilkeston boss Andy Watson, meanwhile, was also delighted to see Dolan get such a good move having helped the teenager progress into the Robins’ first team over the last few weeks.

He said: “It’s a fantastic move and we’re all delighted for him.

“Rhys is a quiet boy but he’s a natural footballer who defies the odds in terms of him being of such a slight build. He’s in fact wily in his game and is quick and hopefully he’ll do really well there.”

Meanwhile, Watson reflected on a tough pair of festive fixtures that saw a 1-1 draw at Mickleover Sports on Boxing Day followed by a 1-0 defeat at home to Matlock Town two days later.

He cited a lack of cutting edge as a key reason for Ilkeston not winning either game, and is keen to see that rectified ahead of the tough trip to high-flying Darlington on Saturday.

He said: “We didn’t create enough chances on Boxing Day although we still got in front early on. The surface was poor too which didn’t help us.

“Against Matlock I felt we played reasonably well in the first-half before going a goal down just ahead of half-time. We still wanted to maintain the tempo and keep the pressure on Matlock after the break but they deserve credit as they had something to hold onto and they did it well.

“We’re finding teams are raising their game when they play us so we have to learn to cope with that.

“We tried to change the system late on and put four up front with an attacking midfield player as well. That obviously left us vulnerable at the back but we had to go for it.

“Application wise I felt our players were a different class as always but we got a bit bogged down at times and lacked quality in our final product, particularly with crosses from out wide.

“I’m not unduly concerned about having gone three without a win. A few things haven’t helped us like injuries and playing in some difficult conditions but we’re still hard to beat. Darlington will be tough on Saturday but we’ve fared well against the higher-placed sides this season so a good result isn’t beyond us at all.”

The Darlington game will be followed by the twice-rearranged League Cup tie at home to Lincoln United on Monday night, with Watson again expected to rotate his squad to include players who need game time.

He added: “I’ve got a few returning from injury who need minutes and also a few good players who have been patient and deserve the chance to stake a claim for a more regular start.

“The only thing that might change my thinking is if, for any reason, the Darlington game is called off, as that would mean I might need to give a few more regulars a start in order to keep them fresh, but we’ll see how things develop.”