Head coach Andy Watson says he was pleased with what he saw from his new-look Ilkeston FC line-up on Saturday despite the Robins falling to a 2-1 defeat at Skelmersdale United.
Several changes were forced upon Watson after eight players were released by the club on Friday (see page 44), with Ryan Head making his league debut and several 17-year-olds populating the squad.
But Watson felt the display gave Ilkeston plenty build on ahead of a tough double-header of home games against Salford City and Stamford.
He said: “We actually fared better than I expected us to.
“Naturally in the first 20 minutes or so there was a period of bedding in and uncertainty which you’d expect given the number of changes, and unfortunately we conceded the opening goal in that time, but we then began to settle.
“We spoke at half-time about being positive and getting on the ball and were quickly level.
“In the end, a little bit of inexperience both in a playing and physical sense perhaps cost us which was disappointing for the players as they’d put so much into their performance.”
Mike Williams was Ilkeston’s scorer and Watson believes the Welsh midfielder has a big part to play in the remaining games.
He said: “It was one of Willo’s best 90 minute displays of the season. He wears his heart on his sleeve and if he continues to do the right things at the right time there’s a very good player in there.
“He can take games by the scruff of the neck and have a big influence, and with him being one of the relatively more experienced players in the team, that will be crucial.”
Salford City will come to the New Manor Ground on Saturday aiming to continue their push for a play-off spot.
The Manchester side are famously owned by the ‘famous five’ of Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary and Phil Neville, and enjoyed a well-publicised run to the FA Cup third round this season.
It is the first of two successive Saturday meetings between the two sides, with Ilkeston due to head to Moor Lane on February 27.
Watson added: “There’s been a bit of a frenzy around them this year what with the TV documentary, their FA Cup run and of course the fact they have a very good side.
“As is the case in so many leagues, the sides with the biggest resources tend to be the ones who end up challenging at the top and Salford fit into that category.
“It’s a challenge we are relishing and with us not having had too many home games recently we’re looking forward to being back in front of our own fans, as we will be again for the visit of Stamford on Monday.”
Stamford are currently in the relegation zone but boosted their survival hopes with a 1-0 win at home to Frickley Athletic last Saturday.
Meanwhile, a new date has yet to be confirmed for the Doodson Sport League Cup third round clash with Daventry Town, postponed on Monday (15th) after Daventry were unable to raise a side due to injury and illness.