A Pair Of Rockets
Ilkeston Town 2-0 Barwell (Southern League Central Division)
I got to play on the hallowed turf of Wembley on Tuesday. A 4-3 loss means I’m still yet to win at the home of football having appeared once before ‘neath the famous arch’ during a drab nil nil draw in 2019.
It was a member’s event with celebrities involved, Danny Murphy was manager and offered some pearls of wisdom whilst Kelly Smith looked after the opposition, Kevin Friend was Referee.
My 43-year-old legs have only just recovered by Saturday morning, I’m in town picking up a couple of Christmas bits from John Lewis before heading home to ready myself for today’s task. Ilkeston Town v Barwell and a couple of teams in the Southern League Central that I’ve already had the pleasure to watch this season.
On paper it looks a tight one, both middle-ish table in the league, Barwell unbeaten in five whilst Ilkeston lost last out, I’m told they dominated second placed Nuneaton away from home but couldn’t make possession count, losing 2-0, ‘they can’t keep clean sheets’ is what they say… Perhaps that might change today?
I leave my house shortly after 1pm in the drizzle as I head down the A52 and over the Clifton Flyover. I’m cutting down the Derby Road and onto Wollaton Vale where I pay the M&S Petrol Station a visit, withdraw some cash and grab a Lucozade as I had one too many last night.
Through Trowell and into Ilkeston I’m down the Awsworth Road and over the twisty narrow canal bridge turn, parking up on the side of the road, across from the New Manor Ground these days sponsored by a software company I’ve never heard of, called Microlise.
I’m sitting in the car the skies now brightened up, I can see the Clocktower Stand through my windscreen, the ground on the edge of town, opposite a couple of car repair shops, a breakers yard, in an industrial looking area, the entrance to the venue a modern brick built turnstile in the corner, it’s £12 to get in, I head through and take a walk behind the goal towards the clubhouse and bar where I use the toilet.
It’s packed in there, you feel this club is a real community hub, no pubs nearby, so meet at the ground for a few pints before hand and when the players come out at five to three, so do we.
Not feeling a beer I opt for a coffee at £1.50 served through a hatch outside the clubhouse and pour in my own milk and sugar, walk past Ilkeston striker Alex Troke who’s not in the squad today, and head up to the media section in the main stand, where Mark the tannoy man is looking perplexed.
“I can’t get the music to play over the tannoy from my laptop? My microphone works, that's on bluetooth, but the music is through an aux cable and it’s not working?”
A long-bearded colleague joins him and plugs his laptop in, no luck either, which is probably a good thing as from the sounds of his heavy metal playlist the stand behind the goal could have been in danger of turning into a pre-game mosh pit had it worked.
Ilkeston Coach James Jepson is shouting up to us in the warmup “Can we have some music on” the reply from Mark is “I’m trying, the aux cable isn’t working”.
His witty response is heard over the tannoy as he announces the teams “We apologies for the lack of music, if anyone wants to sing a capella please shout up”
He closes, after rounding off some upcoming fixtures by stating “enjoy the silence” as I take a sip from my now cold coffee, I notice a church up on the hill, in the background, Ilkeston high up in the distance, it’s a quirky ground that has plenty of character, a real view from sitting high up in the corner stand where I’m perched.
It’s 3pm and the teams aren’t out yet. Dave the Chairman is sitting in front of me so I ask him what’s happening… “The goalkeepers had to change his kit as the green was too similar to Barwell’s… Not sure why it took so long? Maybe his mum usually dresses him in the mornings?”
We’re finally underway a good five minutes late, Barwell in bright lime green, Ilkeston in thick red and white stripes, it seems slow paced, sluggish, maybe the lack of music failed to raise intensity? Maybe standing around waiting for Ollie Battersby to get changed didn’t help either?
Despite lethargy, Ilkeston look the better side. Wingers Remaye Campbell and Dempsey Arlott-John have made a good start. Barwell don’t look up for it, the usually talented Brady Hickey starts with a few too many misplaced passes, winger Beck-Ray Enoru who I was really impressed with in the win against Stratford, simply cannot get into the game.
Right back Mitchell’s having trouble dealing with the tricky and tormenting Arlott-John, so much so, after 17 minutes he’s had enough… Time to feign injury and call for a sub… It maybe a harsh assessment from me, but I would probably have done the same.
There’s a few more Barwell players going down, I turn to my behind and say “We’ll be lucky to get home for midnight.” Ilkeston for their troubles can’t breach the Barwell back line, then Arlott-John lets fly from range, his shot stunningly tipped over by goalkeeper Wycherley.
The home side are pushing, probing from wing to wing, looking for space in behind, a barrage of corners and domination of possession, suddenly Eratt-Thompson picks the ball up, he’s 30 yards out, unleashes his right foot and smashes home into the top corner… A sweet a strike as you’ll ever see.
“He’s not known for his goalscoring” says Mark the tannoy man after announcing to the crowd his “first goal for the club”, He’s playing centre midfield today, last match I watched he played well down the right wing, Mark saying “he originally signed as a full back” as it turns out, Scholsey, I presume he's nicknamed for his ginger hair, well he’s quite a versatile young player.
At half time I say “I’m impressed with Ilkeston” who look much the better of the two teams, but can’t help feeling the Barwell Manager will be giving a rocket up his sides arses downstairs, they haven’t been at it and surely won’t be any worse in the second forty five.
And true to word they improve upon coming out, Davidson-Miller lets fly and crashes against the bar, but they never really get fully going, captain Kieran Fenton guiding the home team defence well, the hosts clearing their lines and allowing their visitors to come on to them, without any real fear of danger on Battersby's goal.
“They need a second” says Mark as Dave the Chairman edges more nervously shuffling across his seat. And with just seven minutes remaining, the requested goal comes, like the first, out of nothing, like the first, an absolute rocket, this time from Montel Gibson, who’s been busy in attack, fleet footed, he curls from 25 plus yards and the goalkeeper can’t get near it.
Two strikes of the highest order, the remaining ten with stoppages is a precession for Ilkeston, who almost let Barwell in for a couple of attempts late on, but as the Referee concludes the game with his three peeps of the whistle, it’s been a one sided, deserving three points, for the best team on the day.
Lamine Sherif a recent signing from Peterborough Sports is terrific in the centre of midfield. A real engine he has a good attitude, always wanting the ball, always prepared to hunt it down, he makes Ilkeston tick and drives things forward whenever he’s in possession.
Left winger Arlott-John is certainly the go to player to make things happen, his trickery and footwork has full backs in dazes, but Montel Gibson, a former youngster with Notts County, is a real talent too, easy on the eye he’s educated in possession, passing into space and where it hurts the opposition sometimes using the outside of his foot, his goal the cream of a milky smooth performance from him.
Kieran Fenton has a good game marshalling his back line from centre half, for Barwell there’s not much to be happy with on a disappointing day in Derbyshire, Andy Wycherley having to make a couple of decent saves, Melis Bushaj gets through plenty of work in midfield, Jahvan Davidson-Miller grafts an isolated figure up top, he has ability, but he needs team-mates to get in and around him, I’m disappointed with his strike partner Enoru who I was so impressed with a few weeks back.
For Barwell it’s one of those games they’ll just have to lock away and forget about. I still think they’ll be ok, they have enough attacking options to cause opponents problems, and I don’t see them getting into a relegation fight, but I also don’t see them hitting the top half of what is a competitive and testing long league.
Ilkeston will be better than ok, mid table is where I see them, where they’ll stay? I suppose that could be down to Mr Chairman and whether he wants to delve into his pockets some more for improvements? But before that, he needs to pay for a new aux cable, so Mark can play his music.
Ilkeston Town: Ollie Battersby, Joe Wilson, Henri Wilder, Declan Eratt-Thompson, Dan Bradley, Kieran Fenton, Remaye Campbell, Lamine Sherif, Chris O'Grady, Montel Gibson (Reco Fyfe 84), Dempsey Arlott-John.
Barwell: Andy Wycherley, Micah Edwards (Dominic Brown-Hill 17), Deen Master, Roger Lee (Tiago Nassunculo 64), Kyle Rowley, George Ward, Beck-Ray Enoru, Melis Bushaj, Jahvan Davidson-Miller, Brady Hickey, Jack Deakin.
3:00pm Kick Off. Saturday 19th November 2022, New Manor Ground, Ilkeston (att 522)