Matlock were given a plum tie in the First Round Proper of the FA Trophy on Monday, one which evokedfond memories from a winter’s night back in December 1976.
The Gladiators were rewarded for knocking out Blue Square North full timers Stalybridge Celtic last weekend with a trip just seventeen miles over the Nottinghamshire border to take on Blue Square Premier Mansfield Town.
Back in 1976, the Gladiators were managed by the eldest of their legendary three Fenoughty brothers, Tom, with Mick joining Tom in the engine room and youngest of the trio Nick partnering Peter Scott in attack. Matlock went to Field Mill top of the then one division Northern Premier League, being prolific goalscorers playing a brand of entertaining football that was the envy of other non league clubs and a fair few Football League outfits to boot. The Stags went on to become the old Third Division champions, and their only home defeat all season came when Matlock amazingly won 5-2 as Nick Fenoughty (2), Dave Goodwin, Colin Oxley and Scott completed the nap hand. That was in a 2nd Round FA Cup tie earning Matlock their solitary appearance in the 3rd Round which ended in a 5-1 loss at Carlisle.
Matlock have a good record on Mansfield’s ground, twice winning the Evans Halshaw Floodlit Cup beating Grantham Town and Bourne Town in finals.
Their fans will want that run to continue but they know they go there as strict underdogs next weekend.
Manager Mark Atkins acknowledged what a great tie it is for the Gladiators, but stressed there is more pressing business first. They travel to Ilkeston FC this Saturday and entertain title chasing Hednesford Town at the Reynolds Stadium on Tuesday night.
“Mansfield’s an excellent draw, it’s great for everyone and it’ll bring some money into the club, but that game is on the back burner, in fact I’ve not really thought about it” said Atkins. “We’ve got some important league games before then which must be our priority. I don’t think the players will be thinking too much about Mansfield yet either. They’ve got to carry on the good work, playing well and scoring goals. Places are up for grabs. Oscar Radford is back on Saturday after being cup tied and Lewis McMahon finishes his ban at the weekend. These league games are vital, we need the points.”
Atkins believes that the Ilkeston game will be equally as difficult as the Hednesford match, despite the fact that nearly a whole division separates Kevin Wilson’s Robins from Rob Smith’s Pitmen. Ilkeston are currently second bottom but with games in hand on fellow strugglers, while title chasing Hednesford have won their last six league and cup games and are in third spot.
“Ilkeston are in a false position” Atkins warned. “I thought they’d be up there this season,and in fact I still think they’ll end up in the top half. It’ll be a tough game for us. Hednesford are always a top five team, so we’ve got to be fully focused in both games.”
Matlock themselves are six league and cup games unbeaten after their sticky start. They have won their last three games, at struggling Stocksbridge, before beating play off candidates Chorley and Marine .
Last weekend they gave manager Atkins a great present as they beat one of his former clubs. Atkins had a two year stay as assistant boss at Stalybridge in the noughties. Celtic led at the interval through a Corey Gregory goal, but skipper James Lukic, who equalled Nick Tilly’s 591 appearances for the Gladiators in the game, levelled on 58 minutes before the ground erupted when Massiah McDonald struck the 87th minute winner.
“”I was thrilled with our performance, especially in the second half. I thought in the first half we waited for things to happen and sat off them. I said to the lads at half time let’s get at them, let’s make things happen, and I thought we were excellent in the second half. e showed that extra endeavour and in the end we deserved to go through. And the atmosphere was really good in that second half, probably the best since I’ve been at Matlock. All of the players commented on it afterwards and they all really appreciated the support they got from the fans. It shows what can happen when everyone is pulling in the same direction and I hope that level of support continues. I hope we take a lot of fans both to Ilkeston and Mansfield and they get behind the lads again to show everyone what Matlock Town is all about.”
While Radford is back on Saturday, midfielder Glyn Cotton is out, but for just one match after collecting his fifth caution of the campaign at Marine. Radford is likely to play in central defence which will allow Adam Yates to slot back into midfield.
Radford, who last week revealed he had turned down a lucrative offer from Worksop, has now signed a contract with the Gladiators. The 20 year old was released by Doncaster Rovers at the end of last season and had an ill fated short stay, remaining on full time terms at Evo-Stik Southern Premier League Kettering. The Poppies hit financial difficulties and Radford was snapped up by Atkins, after having him on loan for three months last term.
“This is excellent news, he wants to play for us until something full time comes up for him, and if that happens we’ll look to help him if he move’s a good one for him” Atkins explained.
Other playing news sees midfielder Danny Deakin join Belper and striker Jordan Thewlis move to Stocksbridge. Atkins says there may be a new addition to the squad in time for the weekend, but in midweek he laid odds of 50-50 on the move coming off.