Manager Kevin Wilson has called on his Ilkeston FC squad to produce ‘one big push’ to achieve promotion from the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
Ilkeston head to Nantwich Town on Saturday and must at least match the result gained by sixth-placed Blyth Spartans as they host relegation-threatened Marine. Spartans are just one point behind the Robins with a superior goal difference.
And despite Ilkeston’s form having dropped in recent weeks to leave them in the vulnerable final play-off spot, Wilson is confident his young side can find the form to get them over the line.
He said: “It’s been a long and hard season with lots of changes so the fact we’re still talking about a play-off spot on the final day, and it being in our own hands, is remarkable.
“It’s going to need a big push to do it and certainly better performances than we’ve produced in the last couple of games, but the prize is there for the taking.
“Blyth have the momentum at the moment and we’ve lost it, but that doesn’t have to mean they’ll overtake us on Saturday.”
Last Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Workington left Wilson disappointed with his team’s efforts but emphasised that fatigue played a big part.
He said: “It’s the first time we’ve lost back-to-back games this season which is something we can be proud of, but it was also the first time I’d looked in the lads’ eyes at half-time and they looked empty.
“Workington will want it to be us they face in the play-offs because they’ve put five goals past us without reply in the last month. They’re a more experienced side but we were very disappointing at the weekend and will have to be in a totally different mindset for Nantwich as well as for any play-off games.
“I’ve been as disappointed as anyone in the last few weeks but we have to keep believing. Our fate is in our own hands - win the next three games and we’re up - but we know it won’t be easy.”
Wilson admitted that off-field matters may have affected the team in recent weeks, particularly the announcement that Wilson himself won’t be at the club next season and the takeover of the Robins also having gone through.
“It doesn’t just affect one person,” he said.
“It affects the whole group. We’ve been very strong and together all season but things are going to change and perhaps that’s on the players’ minds.
“But we have to just prepare for Nantwich and be ready for the challenge ahead.
“We’re taking the squad for a FootGolf session on Wednesday to get them away from the club for a bit and hopefully give them a morale boost for the weekend.”
Should Ilkeston make the play-offs, they will be away from home in the semi-final, most likely on Tuesday night.