Joint boss Craig Hopkins insists there is no pressure on Matlock Town despite three successive league defeats which have seen them slide down to 13th spot in the NPL Premier Division table.

Matlock’s position is most probably better than the table currently suggests. They have played substantially fewer matches than a number of rival clubs aiming for a top five spot and a place in the end of season play-offs, and if they can repeat the form shown for most of the game in their defeat at top of the table Blyth Spartans last weekend, they will surely climb back up the table.

Spartans scored three times in the last eleven minutes to win 4-1, a result which Hopkins says was harsh on the Gladiators.

“For seventy odd minutes we played really well and everyone there knew it wasn’t a 4-1 game in a million years. We’ve played worse than that and won games this year. We had our chances and we’ve got to put them away, we were punished for that. Blyth are the best team in the league but we gave them a really good game. Being where they (Blyth) are with their squad, they could make changes and bring on very good players. When they brought their substitutes on they stepped it up, they got two goals in a minute and then the poor fourth came probably as a result of our lads’ confidence having gone. The two quick goals hit us hard.”

Hopkins agreed that Matlock probably came up against the future NPL champions.

“Blyth will win it, they have the strongest squad, everyone knows their jobs and everyone is happy to be part of a large squad and it’s something we need to aspire to.”

Attention therefore turns to halting the losing run at home to Halesowen Town on Saturday. The West Midlands side had won every game against the Gladiators until last October when Matlock won 3-0 at The Grove.

“It’d be nice to get a win under our belts on Saturday and then see if we can hit another purple patch” said Hopkins. “We’re certainly capable of it and don’t forget it’s only just over a fortnight since we beat a professional side in the Derbyshire Cup and coming close to beating a top National League side in Barrow on their own ground. There’s no crisis, we’ll go out there on Saturday with our fans behind us and do all we can do and if everyone does that, and we keep on working hard, we’ll get back on track.There’s another twenty league games left yet.”

Given their crowded league programme plus possibly two Derbyshire Senior Cup games (Matlock face Alfreton at home in the semi final on Tuesday night), Hopkins says Matlock will be adding to their squad.

“We’ll be bringing in another couple of lads to freshen things up. It’s something me and Kirky have done previously when we won the league with both Heanor and Mickleover Sports and it will do us good to have some fresh faces with us” Hopkins added.

Late last week Matlock brought in midfielder Andy Wright on a month’s loan from Lincoln City, Wright going straight into the starting line-up in place of the banned Joe Doyle-Charles at Blyth. Twenty years old Wright has hasd previous loan spells at Lincoln United and Grantham Town. Striker Anthony Dwyer meanwhile has left to rejoin Ilkeston.

Meanwhile club captain Adam Yates will need a fitness check to see if he can return to the starting line up against Halesowen.

Yates’ appearances have been limited during the past seven weeks firstly following the birth of his first daughter and then illness.

“Adam had a kidney infection last week so there was no way he could play up at Blyth” Hopkins explained. “After the birth of his daughter there were issues he had to deal with at home and then his family was his priority. We’ll see how he has recovered from the kidney problem this week with regards to Halesowen.”

IAN RICHARDSON

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