Saturday’s crucial 4-0 home humbling by relegation rivals Halesowen Town proved to be the straw which broke Mark Atkins back as the former Blackburn Rovers Premiership title winner resigned as Matlock Town’s manager immediately after the match.

Atkins ended his six year tenure in the Autoworld Arena hot seat after a difficult start to the season which sees the Gladiators deep in relegation trouble with just under a quarter of the season gone. With just one win in twelve league and cup matches, Matlock are only kept off the bottom of the table by virtue that local rivals Belper Town are one goal worse off than the Gladiators.

“Results haven’t been good enough and I think it’s best for the club and myself that I resign and leave the club” said a disappointed Atkins. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here, it’s been my first managerial position, I’ve tried my hardest but it’s not a nice feeling getting beat regularly and I feel I now need a fresh challenge. Once the injuries clear up I’m sure these lads are capable of finishing mid table at least, they’ll get out of trouble, they probably just need a fresh voice to guide them.”

Atkins was appointed in November 2008 when he succeeded joint managers Phil Brown and Gareth Williams who had been sacked the month before. He managed to stave off a relegation threat in his first season and guided them to the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final where they were unlucky losers to Buxton at Chesterfield’s old Saltergate ground.

But they had better luck the following season when they overcame Belper Town in the final at Pride Park. In 2010/11 they looked set for a play off place until a late dip in form saw them slide to 11th spot and in subsequent campaigns Matlock have been a lower mid table side. In 2012/13 they reached the 2nd Round Proper of the FA Trophy after wins against Conference North Stalybridge Celtic and more noteably Mansfield Town who would go on to win the Conference Premier and earn promotion to the Football League at the end of the season. Only a last minute Luton Town goal stopped them from earning a replay at Kenilworth Road.

The 46 year old says that Matlock will always hold a special place in his heart.

“This is a great club with a lot of people working very hard behind the scenes and I’d like to thank each and every one of them for all the help they’ve given me while I’ve been at the club.But it’s time for me to go and I’m sure they’ll get out of trouble.”

In the interim physio Dave Rushbury, formerly manager at Chesterfield and Alfreton Town, is expected to take temporary charge as the Gladiators head to Grantham Town on Tuesday night. More details will be published as soon as anything more concrete is known.

Meanwhile Chairman Tom Wright paid tribute to the departing Atkins.

“I personally and I know a lot of the other club officials had a great relationship with Mark and it’s very sad the way things have turned out. He always worked extremely hard’ in fact he worked tirelessly for the club and was Matlock Town through and through. He was also a great ambassador for the club. Unfortunately these things happen in football but we separate on excellent terms, and we wish him all the very best wherever he goes. He knows he is welcome to come back and see us at Matlock anytime.”

Ian Richardson

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