A change of mind from Phil Barnes saw him back between the posts for Matlock’s 1-0 win against Mickleover on Tuesday just a week after he had announced he was hanging up his gloves.
Gladiators joint boss Glenn Kirkwood expressed his delight when Barnes contacted him over the weekend saying he wanted to return to the DCJ Group Arena.
“Phil’s back full time and we’re all absolutely delighted” said Kirkwood.
“He rang to speak to me last Sunday and told me he was missing it and he was regretting saying he was finishing. In the time he was away he’d had three or four offers from clubs at a higher level but he said his loyalties lay with Matlock Town. He loves it here, he loves the place and him coming back has lifted everybody. When we thought we’d lost him it was a terrible blow for he’s a big character both in the changing room and out on the pitch. He’s also popular with the lads and the supporters so we’ve welcomed him back with open arms.”
Barnes was named as both fans and players player of the season in his first campaign with the Gladiators last season after his move from Buxton and it is perhaps no coincidence that Matlock kept their first clean sheet in six games against Mickleover.
Matlock were desperate for the win against their Derbyshire rivals. Just three weeks ago, the Gladiators were three minutes away from being top of the league but since then results have taken a downward spiral with five successive defeats, a dramatic slide down the table and including an embarrassing FA Cup defeat to Haughmond.
Two errors were costly last weekend as Whitby won 2-1 at the DCJ Group Arena in a game Matlock certainly did not deserve to lose.
“We really deserved the win against Whitby but the difference between Saturday and Tuesday was not making mistakes” said Kirkwood.
“The back four were excellent against Mickleover and the team, to a man, all worked their socks off. Mickleover are a really good footballing side so we’re delighted to get the win but there’s a feeling of relief more than anything. The last two weeks have been so hard, all our effort goes into Saturday and Tuesday each week, Hoppo and me put our heart and soul into it. We should have won four out of those five games we lost but luck went against us. The Mickleover win was down to pure grit and determination, togetherness and real team spirit.”
Kirkwood also praised the contribution of coach Danny Cox, who coincidentally missed the whole of the losing run due to being on honeymoon. Cox was back warming up the squad on Tuesday.
“Having Coxy back’s massive, people don’t realise just what he does behind the scenes, he’s part of what we do and how we do it, he’s the glue between the lads and us” Kirkwood added.
Now Matlock will prepare for a third home match in a week when Marine visit the DCJ Group Arena on Saturday.
“We’ll train hard on Saturday and prepare as normal. We want to win on Saturday and get climbing that table” said Kirkwood.
Injuries continue to be a concern for the Matlock management team with a hip injury to Ryan Wilson adding him to the casualty list , keeping him out of the Mickleover clash.
“It looks like he’ll be out for one to two weeks and Marc Newsham’s ankle looks like being a three or four weeks absence. Ted Cribley’s having intensive treatment for the trapped nerve in his back but Michael Williams could train on Thursday and Mark Mullins says he’s not too far away.”
Kirkwood praised the Matlock support who turned out on a wet and windy Tuesday night.
“To say we’d lost five on the bounce, it was a wet night and Champions League football was on the box, it was a great effort and credit to those who came last Saturday against Whitby when we had another good crowd. We all thank them for their support and hope they continue to come while we hope the lads can get the results the fans deserve” Kirkwood concluded.
Matlock are due to visit Barwell on Tuesday, provided the Leicestershire club do not draw their FA Cup tie on Saturday.