Matlock boss Mark Atkins and indeed the club’s fans wanted a positive reaction from the players in the derby at Buxton on Wednesday night after a lack lustre show in a 1-0 home defeat to Witton Albion last weekend and my word, they got one.

Although the Gladiators’ winless sequence was extended to eight matches since the 3-1 victory at Ilkeston on March 8 by the 1-1 draw at the Silverlands, Atkins was a much happier man. Even the most ardent of Buxton fans would concede that a draw was the very least that Matlock deserved, and had it not been for the woodwork and a hat-trick of top class saves from the Bucks’ veteran goalkeeper Andy Warrington, plus a bad miss in the second half, Atkins’ men would surely have been returning home with all three points.

As it was it needed a stoppage time Martin Foster penalty to cancel out Mark Reed’s 84th minute header, but Atkins was in a much happier frame of mind in midweek.

He said his players had put in a poor performance against Witton adding “it was unacceptable, especially after I’d stressed to them that we wanted them to go out and express themselves and show what they could do with next season in mind.”

The nature of the defeat prompted Atkins to say that players are playing to stay with the Gladiators next season.

“There were a lot of under par performances, we created just the one chance which Shaun (Tuton) missed and although Witton scored from just about the one clear chance they created it was clear they wanted it more than us and that’s not happened at home all season. Okay losing five leading players has been a massive blow but the others coming in should have been busting a gut to show they’re good enough to be here next season and nearly all those that came in have featured at some point or other and are more than capable of doing a job for us. But the attitude and desire levels weren’t right and I can’t defend that performance.”

But the manager was quick to acknowledge the vast improvement in performance against their local rivals, which was tons better than the weekend debacle.

“Full credit to the players for the way they reacted after Saturday” said Atkins on Wednesday night. “We bossed the game, their keeper’s made three outstanding saves , we’ve hit the bar and still kept on going after going behind. We deserved to win and the players showed a lot of character, something we want to see more of in the remaining games.”

The first of those games is at the Autoworld Arena on Saturday against a Whitby Town side who had a resounding 4-0 home win over King’s Lynn Town on Wednesday night.

“Now it’s a matter of more of the same after Buxton, the players have got to show the maximum in terms of commitment and desire levels. Whitby will be a real good test, they’ve had a great mid season before dying away a little bit and then picking up again in the last two or three games. They’re always a difficult side to face and now they’re traveling well but really it’s all about us” claimed Atkins.

Joe Leesley should return after missing the Buxton game through illness while Saturday sees top scorer Danny Holland complete his four match ban.

Meanwhile it has emerged that full back Lee Featherstone’s injury is over through a combination of illness and injury while young midfielder Liam Gaughan has moved on to Retford United to play regular first team football. More disappointingly for Atkins, deadline signing Jordan Jones, formerly with Notts County and recently released by Mansfield, told Atkins after the FC united of Manchester defeat on March 29 that he wants to play more regularly with Teversal.

“That’s really annoying as I’d have brought someone else in or kept hold of Liam Gaughan” added Atkins.

The Whitby game will kick off at 3.07 pm on Saturday in line with most senior games in the country to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster.

Ian Richardson

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