Matlock head to cup heroes Blyth Spartans not only hoping to spoil the Spartans party but to build on their last two results which saw them collect an excellent point at home to play off chasing Ramsbottom United last weekend before beating another high flying club Buxton 2-0 in the Derbyshire Senior Cup on Wednesday evening.
Blyth leapfrogged the Gladiators in the table with their third successive win, a 1-0 verdict at home to Trafford on Tuesday night leaving Town in 19th spot, just two places and one point out of the bottom four.
With second bottom Trafford to come at home a week later, joint bosses Dave Rushbury and Martin Foster will realistically be hoping for at least a return of four points from the two outings.
“It’s about more than the next two games. Yes we want to win them that goes without saying but it’s also about putting on good performances, not only in these two games but in all of the twenty three league games which remain” said Rushbury.
The management duo are encouraged by the prospect of a pretty much fully fit squad in the near future.
Niall McManus and Danny Holland were back in the side against Ramsbottom with Phil Roe, who missed last Saturday’s match, returning in midweek. Foster himself has had a couple of cameo appearances as a substitute following his leg fracture during the pre season programme and while Jason Stokes is probably another week or two away from featuring once again, club captain Liam Needham will be back in the squad at Blyth for his first chance after injury under Rushbury and Foster’s control.
Adam Yates missed the Buxton tie through suspension but will be back in the side at Croft Park.
Blyth, of course, were headline makers on FA Cup Second Round weekend, beating Football League and North East rivals Hartlepool on the Division Two outfit’s home turf in front of the television cameras.
An appetizing home tie against Championship side Birmingham City awaits them in Round Three.
“They’re doing well and will be ones to watch in our league” said Foster. “The confidence they will have plus all the publicity coming their way will be great for their club and fair play to them. But we’ve got to go there and carry on the improved performance levels of the last two or three games.”
Reflecting on the point against Ramsbottom Foster said ” We were delighted with it after feeling we didn’t get what we deserved in the previous two matches. The lads stuck to the task and played some good stuff. We switched off for their goal early on, just as we’d done at Ilkeston so that was disappointing for a couple of mistakes can give you an awful lot to do. But there was a lot of effort. What we’ve got to do now is create a little more going forward. It was a great fightback though, the lads want to do it, not just for themselves and us, but for the club and the fans. We’re all in this 100% together, it’s a happy camp with plenty of spirit, now we need to get the goals going in as they were for a few games five or six weeks ago.”
Matlock had to wait until the 84th minute for midfield maestro Niall McManus, an 18 years old student at Sheffield University after previously being with Millwall, to slam home a fine equalizer against Ramsbottom, but on Wednesday they scored more than once for the first time in ten matches when a Corey Gregory brace in the second half knocked the Bucks out of the Senior Cup.
After a nervous start when the visitors dominated the opening exchanges, Matlock won comfortably enough in the end.
“Buxton are a well drilled good side who play with a high intensity that upsets teams and they dominated the opening part of the game because they worked harder than us” Rushbury explained.
“But we stayed in the game, didn’t concede, didn’t panic and tried to play our football, but at times we were playing too much in our own half because they pressed us and caused us problems. At half time we talked about playing more in their half, things changed and we got the goals. Corey got them both but we were also very impressed with his forward runs without the ball That’s not happened before and it caused them problems.”
Matlock have released winger Lavell White who has joined Loughborough Dynamo in Evo-Stik NPL Division One South.
White (24) joined Matlock from Eastwood Town in February 2013 but has struggled to make an impact this term.
“Lavell knew he wouldn’t be featuring week in week out but he’s been great in the two years or so he’s been here” said Foster. “We’ve had a chat with him and he’s gone to Loughborough with our best wishes as he wants to play more local to his Nottingham home and he also wants to play more. We totally understand and respect that.”
Other playing news is that Chesterfield’s Charlie Dawes and Grimsby’s Ellis Humble will remain at Matlock on loan for a further month but the other Grimsby loanee Caine Winfarrah is returning to Blundell Park.