Elks gearing up for key battle in promotion race as leaders come to town
ILKESTON face a big moment in their bid for promotion when they go head-to-head with Midlands One East leaders Bedford Athletic tomorrow.
Bedford took over at the top by winning their game in hand last weekend but only two points separate them and fourth-placed Ilkeston ahead of their showdown at the Stute.
The Elks were also victorious last weekend as they bounced back from defeat at Market Rasen by beating Market Bosworth 36-7.
"It's very tight at the top and it's going to be like that for the rest of the season now," said Ilkeston coach David Jackson.
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"One or two points could be the difference between going up and not going up.
"All the tops teams have to play each other too, so they will be like eight or 10-pointers in terms of the potential swing in league positions.
"We've got a big game this weekend – although they are all big games now.
"We're in with a chance – we've just got to keep working hard.
"We've got some players coming back into the squad but the guys who filled in for them did well, so it will make for some interesting selection decisions."
With eight league games to go, Ilkeston have to play all of the other four sides in the top five.
As well as Bedford, they must face the two teams directly above them – Old Northamptonians and Peterborough Lions – and Matlock, who are just below them.
"We've got Bedford and ONs at home and Peterborough Lions away – all of them could be top when we play them," said Jackson.
"They are three massive games but as we have seen, we can't take the matches against the teams lower in the table for granted.
"So there is no point beating the top sides if we don't back it up with other results."
Ilkeston won 20-8 when they visited to Bedford in October.
"There's a reason why Bedford are at the top," said Jackson. "When we played them earlier in the season, you could see they are a very good team.
"They are a big, strong side, with a couple of good runners, who we will need to stop early on.
"We played very well that day and got the win but it was very close.
"We will have to be at our best and, if we are, I've no doubt that we are good enough to get a result."