Matlock Town look like facing Blue Square Conference Premier high fliers and former Football League club Luton Town without two of their most influential players on Saturday.
Striker Massiah McDonald starts a two match ban and manager Mark Atkins revealed that skipper James Lukic “won’t make it” after collecting an elbow injury which saw him watch last weekend’s home defeat by Stafford Rangers with his arm in a sling.
“Missing James is a big blow, not only for the lad himself but for the club for we all know what he brings to the team” said Atkins. “It’s also a shame for Massiah but it does give someone else that opportunity to show us what he can do and make the headlines.”
With Oscar Radford and Anthony Griffiths-Junior both cup tied, it leaves Matlock with limited playing resources, and Atkins was glad that Tuesday’s Derbyshire Senior Cup trip to Gresley was frozen off as he could clearly not afford any more injuries. The Gladiators will now travel to the Moat Ground on Tuesday, unless Saturday’s tie with the Hatters ends all square. If that is the case it will be a trip down the M1 to Kenilworth Road on Tuesday.
Laurence Gaughan is expected to slot into Lukic’s place with Joe Leesley and Lewis McMahon in attack.
Atkins has watched Luton twice himself and had them scouted on a couple of occasions, so he knows what to expect from a side battling to win back their Football League status.
“They’ve got players who have played in League football and the Conference for all of their careers, they have experience and pass the ball better than Mansfield. They carry a big goal threat but area threat all over the pitch, they’re a strong and excellent side.”
Can the Gladiators pull off another shock after knocking out another Conference Premier outfit Mansfield Town in the previous round?
“We can because anything’s possible in football” Atkins replied. “If we’re at our very best and Luton have a bad off day then we’ll have a great chance. But we can only look after ourselves.We’ll get the tactics the best we can and I know our lads will give them a good game, win, lose or draw. It’s the biggest game we’ve had since I came to the club and it’s a big game especially for the players. We want to get through the tie, we’re at home so I want us all to be positive and have a right good go at them.”
Segregation will be in place for Saturday’s big FA Trophy clash with Luton Town following consultation with the Derbyshire Police and the local authorities.
Luton’s expected away following of 400-500 will be allocated the Causeway Lane side of the ground including the Cyril Harrison Stand with the Gladiators fans having the Town End plus the Dene Fields side including the Twigg Stand.
Matlock are hoping for a four figure gate with admission prices set at £10 adults, £6 concessions, £4 under 16’s and £2 under 11’s. fans are being asked to arrive at the ground in good time in order to avoid congestion at the turnstiles.
Matlock Town suffered their third successive league defeat when Stafford Rangers won 3-2 at the Reynolds Stadium last weekend, and Gladiators boss Mark Atkins agreed that his side had shot themselves in the foot.
“To concede an early first goal was disappointing but we equalised and got ourselves back in the game at 1-1. We lost because Micky Harcourt got himself sent off, if it had been eleven v eleven I think we’d have won comfortably. But we were down to ten men with sixty minutes to play and full credit to the players who were left to battle on.”
That praise for Matlock’s ten men was qualified by Atkins though who added “What upset me a lot was that all three goals were scored inside our six yard box, even with ten men we should have had enough bodies in there to defend that six yard area better”.
Back to the Harcourt sending off, Atkins said he had no complaints.
“When the referee told me what he’d said to him I couldn’t defend him, I’ve no complaints and I made my feelings known to him about what he did afterwards. It’s gone now and we have to move on but it cost us dearly.”
Now Matlock have a tough sequence of league games starting with a visit from FC United of Manchester on Saturday week. They then travel to Rushall Olympic on Boxing Day and Worksop Town on December 29 before hosting Buxton on New Years Day.