A Late Change
Ilkeston Town wasn’t our planned trip for today but with groundhopping, you have to have backup plans.
The original target, Belper Town, had their game against Brighouse Town called off due to pitch conditions.
This left us with Ilkeston Town and it turned out to be a great alternative.
The weekend was spent back in the Midlands, visiting family ahead of my son’s 34th birthday.
Where does the time go?
First, though, we had a long journey ahead of us.
After packing our bags, we set off to the bus station to catch the 09:40 #65 bus to Durham.
Safely deposited just under half an hour later, we made our way to Greggs for some breakfast.
We took on a slow ascent of the east face of Mount Durham and arrived at the top with almost no extra oxygen left in our bottles.
We fell into our waiting room chairs where I made a passable impression of a fish out of water.
Having just about recovered, our 10:52 train arrived and we boarded.
A straightforward journey landed us in Derby at 13:35 before picking up our connection at 13:47.
We arrived in Uttoxeter at 14:15 where my son was waiting to give us a lift, which we were most thankful for.
The rest of the day was spent catching up with family and getting beaten at cards.
The Journey – Part Two
Saturday morning was matchday and the second part of our journey.
We had a slow meander down to Uttoxeter train station to catch the 10:58 train to Derby.
Again, no fuss and we were there by 11:20. We picked up a shuttle bus to Derby bus station where we then had a small wait before catching the overdue (11:45) 11:50 Ilkeston Flyer.
I’m not sure if it was named after the driver we had that day but if he was late into Derby, he was certainly trying to make up for lost time as we sped on our way to Ilkeston.
After going around a long curve that put us onto the A52, I peeled my face off the window and checked my phone to make sure the game was still on.
So far, so good.
We arrived in Ilkeston at 12:25 and not surprisingly, the bus was back on schedule at that point.
Founded around the 6th Century AD, Ilkeston is a Derbyshire town with a population of around 39,000.
It sits west of the River Erewash, close to the border with Nottinghamshire.
The town is named after its supposed founder, Anglian chieftain, Elcha. Thus making it Elcha’s town.
In the local dialect, Ilkeston is pronounced as Il’son, with the ‘K’ and ‘T’ barely discernible in the word.
It has an industrial heritage, with the mining, iron and textile industries all represented in the past.
Like many places, those industries are mostly gone and like numerous towns throughout the UK, it is refocusing and trying to position itself for the future.
Ilkeston is within easy reach of both Derby and Nottingham, has its own railway station, and close proximity to the M1.
Famous residents of Ilkeston include:
- William Roache, better known as Ken Barlow on Coronation Street.
- The ‘Ilson Giant’, Samuel Taylor, who at the… height? of his renown, stood at 7 ft 4′.
- Comedic actor, Robert Lindsay, who older readers will remember as Citizen Smith.
The now-closed American Adventure theme park was located on the edge of Ilkeston. Its closure in 2007 would have added yet more job losses to the town.
Another well-known talking point in Ilkeston is the NatWest ‘hole in the wall’.
Personally, I don’t get it.
I assume it started as a joke and it’s gained momentum but now this hole in a wall near the NatWest Bank is described as many wonderful things by the 153 reviewers on Trip Advisor.
Myself being somewhat pragmatic/cynical, I see it as a round hole in a wall. If you look at many houses around the country, you will see lots of glazed versions of it.
Oh well, just me then?
The Little Acorn
We made our way from the bus stop to our chosen watering hole, The Little Acorn.
The pub lies on Awsworth Road, just a five-minute walk from the ground. This made it the perfect stopping-off point for a pre-match pint or two.
They had just opened when we got there and just one other person was sitting at the bar when we entered.
We ordered a pint of Madri each, costing £8.80.
We wandered around to the other side of the bar where I had spotted a pool table. Having not played in quite some time, it was a pleasant table to play on. The balls ran true and there was plenty of cue room.
I took advantage of this to seven-ball Mrs Hopper but before I could get too cocky, one of the locals came and thrashed me twice.
Cheers for that… 😂
I would see the same guy when I was uploading my videos to YouTube. It turns out he is the stadium announcer at Ilkeston Town and an excellent pool shark.
The pub got busier and we had a second round of drinks as we chatted to some of the locals.
Ilkeston Town owner, Andy Nally was pointed out to me. He was chatting to his Basford United counterparts, so I didn’t disturb him.
We left the Little Acorn and made our way to the New Manor Ground just down the road.
We crossed the Erewash Valley Canal before rounding the corner and seeing our destination ahead of us.
Ilkeston Town – The New Manor Ground
We entered the ground at the southern end via the turnstiles.
Admission was £12.00 on the day, paid by cash or card.
We paid by card and went inside.
We found ourselves in the southwest corner and decided to go anti-clockwise around the ground.
To our right, the southern end was a low, single-stepped, partially covered terrace.
At the far end of this terrace, we came across the Ilkeston Town club shop.
The club shop is located in half of the brick building in the southeast corner of the ground.
As well as a range of Ilkeston goods being for sale, there was a friendly bunch of volunteers in there. One of them was Lewis who had supplied me with a list of recommended boozers before the game.
Thanks for that mate!
I bought the last pin badge for £3.00, so apologies to anyone who followed me in looking for one.
Unfortunately, Ilkeston Town doesn’t produce a printed programme, though there were some copies of previous season’s editions for sale.
The eastern side of the ground is mostly a wide, shelved path sloping toward the pitch.
A long brick building sits atop the slope and one corner of this is dedicated to a snack bar.
The rest of the building comprises two bars and toilet facilities.
Beyond that, is another building that houses the member’s and sponsor’s lounges.
At the north end of the ground is another shallow, covered terrace.
This one comprises four steps and has crush barriers running the length of it.
The roof covers all but the very front of the standing area.
The western side of the New Manor Ground is where the main stand is.
It is a modern stand built of brick, the lower portion houses the dressing rooms and offices, while above these are a number of seats and an eye-catching clock tower with a weather vane perched on top.
The players’ tunnel extends onto the pitch in front of the corner flag in the northwest corner.
Steps lead up to the seating area and run over another snack bar.
Beyond the main stand, is another section of seating.
It is broken down into three sections. Seating for supporters, seating for players and managers in the middle and more supporters seating beyond that.
The section for the players has the kind of plush seats you would expect to find at the Emirates Stadium or Stamford Bridge.
A red carpet lies between the technical area and the pitch itself. The carpet bears the club crest and is another nice touch.
The capacity at the New Manor Ground is listed as 3,029.
The pitch is artificial 3g turf and there are six floodlights, three on each side of the pitch.
Ilkeston Town – New Manor Ground Gallery
Ilkeston Town Tidbits
The latest club to represent the town of Ilkeston was formed as recently as 2017.
The history of the past clubs in Ilkeston can be viewed in the following links:
- 1882/1903 – Ilkeston Town
- 1904/1928 – Ilkeston United
- 1945/2010 – Ilkeston Town
- 2010/2017 – Ilkeston FC
The club is nicknamed the Robins and they play in red and white kits.
The 2017 Phoenix club’s inaugural season was played out in the Midland Football League Division One. They finished second and were promoted to the MFL Premier Division.
More success followed in 2018/19 as the Robins were promoted again, this time as champions. They finished their Championship-winning season in style, with an 8-1 home win over Loughborough University.
Former Stoke City striker, Martin Carruthers was appointed manager in November of 2019.
In 2021, club owner Mark Clifford stepped down as chairman, leaving current owner Andy Nally and future Scunthorpe United owner, David Hilton in charge.
Hilton left the club to take over at Scunny in January 2023, leaving Andy Nally in sole charge.
Here is a link to Andy’s statement upon taking on sole ownership of the club.
In 2021/22, Town secured a third promotion by winning the Northern Premier League Division One Midlands title
One more promotion will see them in the National League North.
Ilkeston Town – Pre-Game View of the New Manor Ground
Unfortunately, no programmes were available, although the club does produce an online digital version.
As an old dinosaur, I much prefer a printed memento of a game, so I was happy to see someone handing out teamsheets.
A couple of names triggered memories and I checked them out when I got home.
The other name that drew my eye was Nathan Tyson on the Basford bench.
Ilkeston Town v Basford United – The Game
Coming into today’s game, Ilkeston sat in mid-table and eight points behind the play-off spots.
In their fixtures since the turn of the new year, they have won two and lost one.
That defeat came on New Year’s Day at Whitby Town, shipping three goals without reply.
Since then they have defeated FC United of Manchester 2-0 and won 2-1 at Worksop Town last Saturday.
Their opponents, Basford United, are located just six miles to the east of Ilkeston in the suburbs of Nottingham. It was no surprise then, that I saw Nottingham Forest and Notts County fans in attendance, as well as Derby fans.
On the pitch, Basford’s last three fixtures have resulted in two victories and a loss.
The loss came last time out against runaway league leaders, Radcliffe, with a 3-1 home defeat.
Prior to that result, they had a 1-0 win at Stafford Rangers and a 2-1 home win over Marine.
Basford sat in 19th position and one place above the drop zone before today’s game.
Despite the seeming closeness of the two teams’ recent form, I was going for a 3-0 home win in front of a bumper crowd.
It didn’t take long for Ilkeston to boost my hopes of a good prediction!
Within two minutes, a magnificent save from the Basford goalkeeper, Kieran Preston, saw the Robins almost snatch the lead.
A minute later, another corner led to a deflected shot from the edge of the area finding the net.
Jamie Walker claimed the touch for what would be the first of a hat trick for him.
Ilkeston continued with the upper hand in front of their small but noisy pocket of fans behind the goal.
The next big chance came for the visitors, as a counter-attack led to a header being well saved by Matthew Yates in the Town goal.
Walker made it two on nineteen minutes.
Another corner for the home side and this one was volleyed home neatly from close range.
If you watch the video below, you will see The Little Acorn’s resident pool shark announcing the goalscorer from behind the goal.
A third goal was added in the 37th minute by Declan Eratt-Thompson. A good through ball by Lindon Meikle still left DET with plenty of work to do but he finished it superbly.
Half Time – Ilkeston Town 3 Basford United 0
With this game seemingly over by halftime, it was time for the dreaded check of the scoreline at Stoke.
We may have been on an unbeaten run but Birmingham at home conjures up some nightmare games in my mind. No surprise then to see we were losing 1-0 at halftime and went on to lose the game 2-1.
There is no doubt we are a better team under Schumacher but bogey teams don’t care about things like that, do they?
After checking out the little boy’s room, I noticed a Sutton United flag hanging from the railings of the main stand and it was apparent I wasn’t the only Hopper in the village today.
The second half almost started with a bang, as Tom Cursons fired in Ilkeston’s fourth goal.
This one, however, was rightly ruled out for offside, though it took far too long for that decision to be made official.
Town continued to dominate the game without troubling the scoreboard until the 80th minute.
That man Jamie Walker completed his day with a third goal for him and a fourth for Town.
A fine through ball by substitute Alex Marshall, saw Walker bear down on the keeper and he slotted it past him with aplomb.
He was substituted soon after to much applause from the Ilkeston fans as he came past us.
Basford managed to get a goal back as the clock ran down but it was only ever going to be scant consolation for the visitors.
Nathan Tyson was the quickest to react after a free kick from the edge of the box hit the bar.
Those predatory instincts are still there!
There was also time for a late red card. A lunging tackle by Owen Betts, rightly saw him given a second yellow card.
Full-Time – Ilkeston Town 4 Basford United 1
Attendance – 1,360
Entrance Fee – £12.00
Programme – N/A – teamsheet available
You can read a more detailed Match Report here, if and when one becomes available.
Ilkeston Town v Basford United – Match Highlights
Next up for Ilkeston is a trip to Stafford Rangers’ Marston Road ground on January 27th.
They will follow this with two home games against Marine (February 3rd) and Lancaster City (10th).
Today’s visitors, Basford, have a home game against second-placed Warrington Rylands on January 27th.
They will follow this up with a tricky away game at Whitby Town (February 3rd) before facing Hyde United at home (10th).
Ilkeston Town – Thoughts
Ilkeston seems to be a very well-run club and the ground feels unique and quirky, yet modern.
The plush seats in the dugouts, the club crest carpet and the clock-towered main stand, all give the ground a character all of its own.
We picked a good time to attend a game at the NMG as a lot of fixtures in the surrounding area were called off and Derby/Nottingham Forest were both playing away from home.
This, plus the fact that it was a local derby gave us a bigger-than-average attendance on the day.
The ground has a decent club shop, a large building with a couple of bars and two snack bar facilities.
There is plenty of scope for further improvements if the club keeps progressing, too. There is land available behind the north end and the east side for improved stands if the need arises.
The only small complaint came from Mrs Hopper who had to wait a long time to get served a cup of coffee before kick-off (she missed the first goal).
All the drinks were being made with two household kettles, one of which was broken. It may be worth investing a little bit of money to improve on this and improve the customer experience.
Ilkeston Town – After the Game
After the game, we swiftly made our way out of the ground to catch the Ilkeston Flyer back into Derby.
True to its name, the Flyer went flying past us, just before we reached the bus stop…
Luckily, they fly by every fifteen minutes, so not too long to wait.
At 17:15, we caught the next bus and were soon back in Derby. We again took the last option and a shuttle bus to the train station to wait for the train back to Uttoxeter.
This was the longest wait of the day, a whole hour before the 18:46 train.
We wandered across the road and indulged in pie and chips from the chip shop opposite the station. Bang average food but it filled the hole.
We got back into Uttoxeter at 19:10 and made our way into town for a few drinks before heading back to my mother’s house.
The journey back to Durham on Monday was slightly delayed but not too bad all things considered with Storm Isha hitting overnight.
We left Uttoxeter at 11:58 and got through our front door around 17:00.
Next Up for Hoppers Guide
Next week, weather permitting, we will be making another journey north of the border.
We always enjoy a trip to Edinburgh and with the weather being what it is right now, it seems like a good time to visit Ainslie Park’s 3g surface.
The Spartans have taken to life in the SPFL like ducks to water and have a chance at consecutive promotions.
Their opponents, Clyde, were recently relegated from League One last season and have a real fight on their hands if they are to avoid a second relegation.
The ‘Bully Wee’ may look down and out at the moment, but this is football and we all know how quickly things can change.
It will be interesting to see if this one runs to form.
Onto the next!