Ilkeston Town 1-4 Guiseley (Northern Premier League)
Formed in 1909, Guiseley Association Football Club were West Riding County Amateur League champions four times in the thirties, a further title in the fifties had them soon move across to the West Yorkshire League (which they twice won in the sixties) before promotion to the Yorkshire League in 1968 where they would eventually finish twice runners up in Division One, before becoming founder members of the Northern Counties East League in 1982.
Since then, the rise of the Lions has seen the club play as high as the National League before relegation in 2018. They won the FA Vase in 1991 after being beaten in the final the year previous.
Last season they finished thirteenth in the Northern Premier League and are this season going ok, although they were thumped 5-1 at the weekend by fellow promotion chasers Macclesfield.
Ilkeston’s past is longer than their formation suggests… 2017 this ‘official’ version of the club has been playing since, but the New Manor Ground has hosted various versions of ‘Ilkeston Football’ since 1945.
The Robins, like Guiseley are on the fringes of the playoff race but have fell away of late. Last time out losing 3-1 at Stafford, they haven’t won since beating Atherton Collieries at the start of the month, which was five matches ago.
I’m man flued up (it’s that time of year), but in the car on the way through Nottingham towards Ilkeston where I arrive with an hour to spare ahead of kick off. Darkened cold skies lit up by the floodlights, I’m parked opposite the road in my usual spot outside a breakers yard on Awsworth Lane.
Turnstile in the corner, the lights are on but not many at home, I’m greeted by a steward on entrance, he spots my Green Bay Packers hat, and we start talking NFL. He’s a fan of Las Vegas Raiders but has a Minnesota Vikings shirt on under his hi vis jacket. He also likes Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets of the NBA.
The ground is empty, it’s got to be zero degrees on this cold snappy Tuesday night in November. Not many fancy it in this weather? I’m hobbling over the carpet in front of the dugout, the clock tower stand in front of me tonight’s destination, making it up to the second row of the top where I can also keep an eye on my car down below.
It’s a good view of the ground as a train goes by in the distance, the warm clubhouse opposite looks to be the most popular place tonight, the two roofed terraces behind the goal have little more than a few early stragglers chatting away.
I’ve a huge coat on, blanket over my knees, woolly hat and hand warmers at the ready, I’m joined by the radio team for Guiseley who arrive with just a few minutes to spare. They ask a Guiseley official who’s sat in front, how long their coach journey took… “Three and a half hours” he says. “We got the wrong bus, stuck in traffic and one of the lads Prince was at the wrong pick-up place”.
The two teams walk out to a bit of Born Slippy as the sparse attendance claps them in, a few from Yorkshire have made the trip and are stationed behind the goal to my left with a flag. They make a bit of noise but it has the feeling of a County Cup match about it tonight. Nobody's here... Nobody cares... The start is even slow and laboured as Guiseley with their 4231 formation sit off as Ilkeston pass between their back four. Big Tom Denton up top on his own isn’t pressing anybody tonight. That’s not his style of game.
Ilkeston, as they often do on this pitch, look nice and neat on the ball. They get it and play and look for left winger L’Varn Brandy who has a bit of pace and some tricks rolled down his socks, although right back Ollie Brown is keeping him at bay.
The home side win a corner on 24 from Brandy's persistence and cross it in deep, Ryan Kendall looks to have flicked it into his own net off his head, the lead is probably deserved, it’s been a balanced match but Ilkeston have had more of the ball and look like more of the aggressors to me.
A couple of sniffs though and Guiseley are suddenly on top. A lovely whipping cross from the left has Aidan Walker at the back post head against the bar and in. “Not sure what he was doing up there” says the radio commentator who punches the air for the centre halves first goal for the club.
On 37, Ilkeston get another corner as the Guiseley commentator says ‘we really need to defend this one’ having already conceded from a set play earlier in the match. The corner is thus defended well and cleared as far as Kofi Moore down the right. He puts on the burners and sprints from his own half to the by-line where he pulls back to the on rushing Liam Tongue. The midfielder was an early substitute for the injured Leigh Whelan and timed his run to perfection. A clinical goal on the break to put Guiseley 2-1 up, but bloody hell… Kofi Moore is quick!
Suddenly Guiseley have turned into Man City. They are knocking the ball around with fizz, playing with tempo, a new found confidence, a ferocity in their game. Pass, pass, pass, it’s one touch football that goes central to the left wing where another speedster in Jordi Nsaka whips in low. Tom Denton inside the box converts. The fans behind the goal are singing “It’s just like watching Brazil”.
That two goal cushion takes the tie away in just a couple of minutes of magic, as half time can’t come early enough for Ilkeston.
The second half see’s the away side sit off some more. Ilkeston have a lot of the ball but lack ideas. Perch and Minkley pass to their full backs who often give them the ball back, then the ball eventually goes back to their goalkeeper, it’s hardly enthralling ‘have a go football’. Declan Erratt-Thompson is one player who I’ve mentioned in the past, who does stand out in midfield. His energy and workrate, his commitment and ball play, all qualities shining for a player who will do well long term at this level. He’s announced man of the match by the man on PA before a late goal for Guiseley wraps things up. Pratt heading home from a corner before a few handbags are sparked off late on. One of the Guiseley players has half his shirt ripped off by Alex Marshall to spark a 22 man brawl in front of us on the corner stand. Too little too late that fighting spirit from Ilkeston.
Prince Ekpolo might have missed the meeting point brief but he put in the hard yards in and hardly misplaced a pass or tackle from his centre midfield position. Lots to enjoy from the Guiseley performance, wingers Nsaka and Moore extremely quick, Nsaka not always knowing what to do when he beats a man though. Moore on loan from Oldham Athletic aged 19, could have a bright future in the game. Tom Denton a nuisance as always up top, a seven foot wall that wins more headers than any other striker I’ve ever watched play. Everything bouncing off his chest, his head, his shins, back to where it came from, mostly cushioned down for team mates to run onto, he's thick set and an imposing player that no defender would enjoy marking.
Centre half Jameel Ible was brilliant bar one misplaced pass which he thankfully got away with, Reece Kendall ‘committed’ to say the least from left full back whilst Ollie Brown on the opposite side played really well. Gabriel Johnson with his dyed blonde cornrows in the no10 position is a former Manchester United and Leeds youngster who as well as showing a bit of elegance and grace on the ball can also mix it off it too.
For Ilkeston, L’Varn Brandy and substitute Ben Starkie were lively with pace and chalk on their boots. Jamie Walker a centre forward who I really liked from watching earlier in the season, looked lost on the right wing, things not going his way, but he does have quality and a bit of suave. Declan Erratt-Thompson is one of those players regardless of result, he’ll always put in a shift and return a seven out of ten as standard.
Guiseley look a good side with solid competitors in all areas and although this game never looked like a 4-1 thumping, they were clinical in front of goal and solid enough at the back to reduce Ilkeston to no real attempts.
Other than a thumping at Macclesfield, form has been good and four goal wins have been a regular thing of late. In attack they look like they mean business, in defence, well, they’re just mean and prepared to get stuck in.
Never back against a physical committed side with pace and goals, this is exactly what Guiseley are, a proper team of footballers ready made for the level and beyond.
Ilkeston seem to be going through the motions… Are they a ‘nice’ team that play ‘nice’ football or is there a bit more to them? They have players with bite and personality, but seem to be playing within themselves. Maybe a cold night on a plastic pitch in front of only 300 people didn’t help. But by raising their tempo they might even raise the attendance and raise the temperature levels of the New Manor Ground, usually a fierce when full hostile venue, tonight, it really didn’t seem that way.
Ilkeston Town: Matthew Yates, Tom Marshall (Larell King 52), Sam Parker, Connor Dixon, James Perch, Callum Minkley, L'Varn Brandy, Declan Erratt-Thompson, Tyrell Waite (Alex Marshall 60), Zak Goodson (Ben Starkie 52), Jamie Walker.
Guiseley: Ollie Battersby, Ollie Brown, Reece Kendall, Leigh Whelan (Liam Tongue 19), Aidan Walker, Jameel Ible, Kofi Moore (Tom Pratt 67), Prince Ekpolo, Tom Denton (Kallan Murphy 80), Gabriel Johnson, Jordi Nsaka.
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 28th November 2023, New Manor Ground, Ilkeston (att 326).