Whitby Town cannot wait to lock horns with second-placed Ilkeston on Saturday (Jan 17), despite the Robins’ impressive run of 13 wins and one draw from their last 14 outings.
The unbeaten spell started with the Derbyshire side’s 3-1 victory at the Turnbull Ground, in November, when goals from Joe Maguire and an Ashley Hunter brace cancelled out Dale Hopson’s superb first-half free-kick.
However, Blues player-boss Darren Williams is looking forward to Saturday’s trip.
“The lads have had a rest and for some, it’s given them a better opportunity of being fit for Ilkeston,” he said.
“It’s niggles not serious injuries, carried over from Christmas when we’ve been short and they’ve had to play,” he told the Whitby Gazette.
The Seasiders’ training game last night (Wed) was called off, while Ilkeston warmed up for Town’s visit with an 8-1 county cup victory over nearby Holbrook Sports.
FC United of Manchester’s FA Trophy clash at Chorley postponed their scheduled game at Whitby, last Saturday, but Blues defender Kev Burgess agreed with his manager that the timing wasn’t bad for the Blues.
“It’s come at a good time,” he suggested.
“It’s always tough at Ilkeston – they’re a great team.
“Every time we go down there, it’s a tough game, but it’s one we’re looking forward to after the break, I cant wait.”
Burgess (26) suffered nearly three months on the sidelines after picking up an Achilles injury, back in September, at Matlock Town.
It was a difficult time for the popular centre-half who has made more than 250 appearances in a Whitby shirt and hates having to watch games rather than playing.
“It’s horrible, obviously I don’t want the day to come when I retire,” he said.
“I love playing football and I want to play every day.
“I’m chomping at the bit for Saturday.”
With 59 goals from 26 games, Ilkeston are the NPL Premier’s top scorers, with the division’s third-highest scorer Rob Duffy and Kane Richards striking 28 times between them.
The Robins, who hit the headlines 24 hours before meeting Town, when midfielder Che Adams joined Sheffield United for a six-figure fee, are eight points behind leaders Skelmersdale, with seven games in hand.
Kevin Wilson’s side have already won 4-1 at the NPL Premier’s top team, with many League clubs reported to be tracking their string of academy graduates.
Ilkeston are the only full-time professional outfit in the Evo-Stik League, boosted by their academy, run by ex-Nottingham Forest star Steve Chettle, whose son Callum, represents the Robins.
Town may well take heart from their 2-0 success last time they visited Ilkeston’s New Manor Ground, in December 2013.
Graeme Armstrong and Lee Bullock were on target in the Blues’ only-ever success against the East Midlanders on their home turf.
Bullock is expected to be out for at least another six weeks following a knee injury sustained when the sides met at the Turnbull.
Midfielder Dave McTiernan and defender Richard Pell are battling hamstring injuries, while striker James Brown has back trouble, though right-back Ibby Hassan is likely to shrug off a chest infection to hopefully feature.
A supporters’ coach leaves the Turnbull Ground at 9.30am on Saturday, with places still just £10 each.