Matlock boss Mark Atkins is hoping that four injury doubts recover in time for Saturday when Stafford Rangers visit the Autoworld Arena.

With striker Shaun Tuton beginning a three match ban after his rather harsh red card against Skelmersdale United a fortnight ago, Atkins will be hoping that Tuton’s current striking partner Danny Holland will be ready in time after suffering from memory loss in last weekend’s 3-1 derby win at Ilkeston.

Holland scored the Gladiators opener which was added to by David Haggerty’s first competitive Matlock goal and Tuton as all of the goals camera before half tome at the New Manor Ground.

“Danny wasn’t feeling well at half time after a collision with the Ilkeston goalkeeper, plus he’d got a dead leg. He stayed on as long as he could but we really needed to get him off. After the match he couldn’t remember anything about the game” Atkins explained.

Holland sat out the friendly against Minnesota which the Americans won 3-0 on Monday night, as did Micky Harcourt, Oscar Radford and James Ashmore, who also picked up knocks last weekend.

Speaking on Tuesday Atkins added “Had we been playing tonight then none of the four would have been fit, so we’ll have to see how they are for Saturday.”

Losing Tuton for three matches is a blow the Gladiators could well have done without. The former Teversal and Belper Town striker has built up a healthy partnership with Holland. Matlock have scored thirteen goals in their last five league outings and Tuton has scored eight and Holland four of them.

“It’s one of those things” Atkins continued. “I think we’re all agreed that the sending off was harsh, it’s not having him sent off in the game that’s the problem but the three match ban is, and it’s frustrating because Shaun and Danny have been working well together. It now gives Daryll Thomas the chance to stake his claim.”

Atkins explained the reasoning behind Matlock not going full tilt in the second half after building their two goal advantage.

“We started really well and took control and took our chances. We gave a sloppy goal away but then showed a great reaction to make it 3-1. With lads carrying knocks we decided that the three points were the most important thing on the day, so we shut up shop, stopped Ilkeston from playing and looked comfortable. Ilkeston had just the one chance and I never thought we’d relinquish our lead.”

Matlock stood in eighth place after Tuesday night’s games and know that if they are to maintain their play off push, they need full points against struggling Rangers and at Stamford on Tuesday night.

“Stafford are fighting for their lives and will feel there’s time left for them to pull away from trouble” Atkins warned. “We know we’ll be in for a tough game as we will when we play at Stamford for in the abandoned game down there they proved that they’re a tough nut to crack. For us it’s a matter of being strong as we’ve been this past few games. There’s no easy games, we’ve got to take one game at a time and try and do the business each time.”

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The Americans arrived at the Autoworld Arena on Monday night and what a treat it was for everyone in attendance.

358 spectators saw Minnesota United win 3-0 in a game which was closer than the final scoreline suggests, but it was also a night for making new friends and establishing links between the two clubs.

The night went spectacularly well and according to Matlock Chairman Tom Wright, everyone involved in staging the game should be immensely proud of their efforts.

“It was a great night for Matlock Town and the non league game. Minnesota are obviously a very good side and we can be proud of our players efforts in what was a good competitive match. It was lovely to host them and we’ll have so many special memories of the night. They were lovely people and we’ve made some great friends. A lot of people at Matlock worked very hard both beforehand in arranging the game and on the night itself, so I’d like to thank them and congratulate them for they should be immensely proud.”

Matlock Chief Executive Keith Brown received an e mail from Minnesota’s Alexander De Rosa on Tuesday which read

“It was a pleasure meeting you and the Matlock Town staff last night. I want to express my sincere gratitude for all the hospitality shown to the team and staff. We were massively impressed with the town, the club and the fans as a whole. Please pass this message on to all concerned. Don’t hesitate to ask if there’s anything the club can do for you in the future and keep me in the loop as to how your season turns out.”

Gladiators boss Mark Atkins also enjoyed the night.

“It was a good competitive game although I would liked to have faced them with a full side. Minnesota are a very good side but I felt we did ourselves justice and our fitness levels were fantastic.”

Gladiators legend James Lukic pulled on a blue Matlock Town shirt for the first time in eleven months in Monday night’s prestige friendly against Minnesota United–and it looked as if he’d never been away.

Injury and work commitments have ruled Lukic out so far this term, but Matlock paid him a huge compliment by playing him and naming him as captain against the Americans, and it was just like the olden days.

Organising and cajoling his team mates his vocal and stand out presence was still there for all to see.

Town boss Mark Atkins hinted that there could be a chance of Lukic returning at some point.

“He certainly didn’t look out of place did he?” That question doesn’t command an answer and Atkins added “His fitness went just after half time which isn’t really surprising as he’d only played the odd five a side, but he did great. With our small squad I’ll try and have a chat with him about coming back, if not this season, then next season, once his body’s settled down again after Monday night.”

Ian Richardson

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