CURZON Ashton have striker problems ahead of tomorrow (Saturday’s) Evo-stik NPL premier division play-off at the Tameside Stadium.
Niall Cummins broke two toes early in Tuesday’s semi-final at Ashton United, and Ryan Brooke was sent off after an altercation with Jay Gorton. Jordan Wright, who had to be substituted after coming on for Cummins, is very doubtful.
But talismanic skipper Sam Walker’s long-standing hamstring injury suffered no ill-effects and he should feature.
Blues manager John Flanagan accepts that the trio will be missed, especially Cummins, whom he describes as a catalyst and one of his most consistent performers. However, he believes experience could be the decisive factor in deciding who wins promotion to Conference North.
“It’s going to be a tight game and we need to keep our heads. Ilkeston are a young side and we have to hope the occasion gets to them more than it does to us. We’ve got to put them under pressure and see how they respond,” he commented.
Statistics make Curzon favourites. They have home advantage and, as recently as February, defeated the Robins 4-0. But these facts fail to impress Flanagan who said: “Workington beat Ilkeston 3-0 and 2-0 quite recently and look what happened to them on Tuesday when they had home advantage.
“The bookies will have us as favourites but it won’t be by much. Ilkeston are a good side and it’ll all depend on who performs better on the day. The Tameside Stadium pitch will help both teams.
“I’m expecting a difficult game but if you try and play Ilkeston will give you opportunities. There are elements of the way they play that we can exploit and I’m sure they feel the same about us. But there are certain areas of the pitch where they are a bit weak and can be exposed.”
In terms of danger men, Flanagan believes Robins midfielder Callum Chettle could cause problems. He is the son of 1990s Nottingham Forest centre-back Steve Chettle who is assistant manager at Ilkeston and runs their academy side.
He added: “Chettle’s good but I’ve never looked at them and thought anybody really stands out.
“Most of their players have been at professional clubs so they’ll have good habits, understand discipline and shape, and will know how to play and pass the ball.”
Ilkeston manager Kevin Wilson has promised to remove the shackles from his side so they can give a performance that will never be forgotten.
He said: “What happened earlier on in the season counts for nothing now. It will be a different occasion entirely tomorrow and I don’t underestimate these boys.
“I’ve told them to enjoy the occasion again and just do their best. Curzon Ashton are a good team and we’ll have to be at our best to win the game.”
Wilson has a full squad to choose from.
The game kicks off at 3pm and there will be extra time and penalties if needed.