It’s likely to be a hugely different looking Matlock Town team from last season as the Gladiators begin their 2016/17 Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division campaign at new boys Corby Town on Saturday.
Corby, playing their first ever NPL game after relegation from National League North at the end of last season, will provide new Matlock joint bosses Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins with a tough test in their first league match in charge of the Gladiators. a fact acknowledged by Hopkins.
“We know Corby are a good side, they have good players” said Hopkins who says that despite the physicality of the second half in Matlock’s final pre season fixture, a 1-1 draw at Belper on Tuesday, it was great preparation not only for the Corby challege, but the season ahead.
“The Belper game taught us a lot. First of all we need to start much better, we didn’t show enough aggression and there was no tempo, we didn’t want it to be like a pre season game but that’s how we played it. However it was a much better second half from us,good preparation for Saturday and what we’ll face this season. Belper will probably be top eight in First Division South so it was a good test for us.”
The signings last week of goalkeeper Arran Jameson, once with Sheffield Wednesday and more recently with Buxton and had a loan spell at Matlock during 2009/10, midfielder Anthony Griffiths-Junior and the vastly experienced Andy Todd took the Gladiators recruitment total to twelve new players.
“We kept four or five of the lads who were here but it’s really been a clean slate for us. We need to improve as we go along, we’re still a good way off where we want to be, but it’s a start” said Hopkins.
Those sentiments have probably been apparent in Matlock’s pre season as a whole, which have seen just the one victory in nine outings, but some encouraging performances against full time outfits.
“There’s been more good halves than bad during pre season” added Hopkins. “We could have done a lot better in four or five halves but I reckon there’s been nine or ten good halves which have been chiefly against the better sides but that can happen quite often when you’re facing a better team, but now the season’s starting and it’s vital we get off to a good start. We need 100 per cent commitment from everyone in each and every one of the ninety minutes being played, if you get that you have a very good chance as what will happen will happen, we’ll continue to emphasise that to the lads.”
But the joint managers’plans have been disrupted with a batch of injuries. Jameson will stand in for Phil Barnes, the 38 year old custodian having been injured in the draw with FC Halifax Town, while strikers Marc Newsham and Ben Partridge,, midfielder Ted Cribley and defender Alex Pursehouse are all very doubtful to face Corby.
“We need plenty of players and we hope the injuries soon improve for it’s a very crowded start at non league level” said Hopkins.
Matlock’s first home match of the season is against Skelmersdale United on Tuesday night.
“Skelmersdale are a good footballing side, but at the moment we’re thinking no further ahead than Corby.”