Ilkeston can underline promotion credentials against Old Northamptonians
ILKESTON face another defining moment in their season when they meet fellow promotion challengers Old Northamptonians in a top-of-the-table clash.
The sides meet at the Stute tomorrow (3pm), with the teams level on points at the Midlands One East summit.
ONs are currently in pole position by virtue of having won one more game than their rivals – but that could all change this weekend.
The Elks saw off Matlock at Cromford Meadows last weekend to boost their title aspirations.
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And the key fixtures keep on coming, with the visit of ONs followed by a showdown with third-placed Peterborough Lions.
"We told the players after the Matlock game that they had earned their beer – but that they needed to keep one eye on the next game," said Ilkeston coach David Jackson.
"The league is so tight that when we played Peterborough Lions, they were top and the same goes for Bedford Athletic.
"Now we've got another chance to take on the league leaders.
"We've got the most bonus points in the division and I think that is a reflection of how we play.
"However, we can't say we're joint top. We are second and that's not where we want to be.
"ONs have won one more game than us, so they deserve to be top at the moment.
"But we have the chance to change that this weekend."
ONs won 32-24 at home against Ilkeston earlier in the season.
"They beat us at their place and only a couple of late tries from us made the scoreline respectable," said Jackson.
"We were well beaten and didn't give as good an account of ourselves as we would have liked.
"We will need to be at our best again and make sure we're well prepared for the game.
"If we are, I think we have the ability in the squad to beat them.
"Over the last few weeks, the lads have really dug in. It's like this every week now and we've got another massive game this weekend.
"Then we've got Peterborough Lions and after that we play Paviors in a league and NLD Cup double-header – the games just keep coming."
Hooker Marc Moore could return to the Ilkeston squad but second row Paul Shoebridge is unavailable.
Jackson and fellow coach Nigel Hall, meanwhile, are waiting on the fitness of number eight Steve Quinn, who is battling to recover from a hamstring injury.
Elsewhere in the division, Matlock travel to Newark, looking to get back on track after their six-match winning run was ended by Ilkeston.
Defeat by the Elks has left Alan Johnson's men fifth in the table, now seven points behind the top two.