The opening day of the season has not been kind to Matlock recently with just two wins in ten attempts, so opportunity knocks for the Gladiators to buck that trend in this term’s curtain raiser at Frickley Athletic on Saturday.

Frickley have struggled consistently in recent seasons but have always had enough in the tank to preserve their Premier Division status. With that in mind and strange results tending to happen on day one, Gladiators boss Mark Hume said “Anything can happen on the first day of the season, it’s a level playing field.”

Matlock could have as many as seven new faces in their sixteen man match day squad including a new goalkeeper in Lewis King, the return of winger Ben Algar for a third spell at the club and striker Joel Purkiss, plus two more recruits fixed up this week in central defender Harry Coates and midfielder Matt Steeper.

Steeper joins on a dual registration basis with Winterton Rangers having started out at Scunthorpe United, while nineteen years old Leeds based Coates impressed and scored in Matlock’s 2-0 pre season win against Belper Town and arrives from Harrogate Town having previously been at York City.

A rare opening day win would be just the ticket for Matlock given that their first home game of the campaign is against newly promoted and one of the title favourites, Salford City on Tuesday night.

On paper these look to be two contrasting but nevertheless equally difficult games as Hume acknowledged.

“One thing’s for sure there’s no easy games at all now in this league, it’s really strong and competitive. A few years ago there were two or three teams you could say we’re likely to go there and beat but it’s not the case now. It’s an interesting start for us. Salford have obviously put some money in and that can bring pressure on them. There’s no pressure at all on Frickley.”

Matlock make the relatively short trip to West Yorkshire on the back of an encouraging performance in a 2-2 draw against their final pre season opponents, big spending Shaw Lane Aquaforce in Barnsley last weekend.

Town twice led the Evo-Stik First Division South new boys whose second equalizer came with just five minutes left.

Hume was annoyed with some of the challenges from the hosts, particularly in a feisty first half.

“One of their lads got a little silly leaving the foot in unnecessarily. If one of my players had done it I’d have pulled him off straightaway. It was a pity because it was a good competitive game and we did very well against a side with players from Conference North level and above who would be highly placed in our division.”

Hume refused to give much away about who would play at Frickley but it appears as if Coates will make his Town debut., in spite of only one pre season game in Matlock’s colours.

“He’s had a slight ankle knock and we thought it better to leave it to heal but he’ll be okay for Saturday” said Hume who also revealed that midfielder Josh Meade would not feature in the opening games.

“Josh’s going to Stocksbridge but we see it as a temporary move. He needs some game time as for one reason or another he’s been down the pecking order a bit here.”

Player coach Grant Black has also not featured greatly in the pre season programme.

“For the time being his work commitments have had to take precedence over his football but he’ll be back with us soon” Hume added.

IAN RICHARDSON

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