Now their FA Trophy run has ended and progress has been made into the Derbyshire Senior Cup semi final, Matlock Town’s players return to league action as they pursue a place in the end of season play-offs.

Both of their next two league games fall into the difficult category with improving Workington due at the DCJ Group Arena on Saturday before a visit to current league leaders Blyth Spartans follows seven days later.

The Gladiators and the Reds will be meeting for the fourth time this season. Last October they faced each other three times in a week. A 1-1 draw in the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup meant a midweek replay at Borough Park which Matlock won 3-1 before the Gladiators won by exactly the same score in the league clash there on the following Saturday.

Workington have moved above Matlock after their 4-1 home win over Mickleover while Matlock were edged out of the FA Trophy just down the road at Conference National Barrow. The Reds result last weekend coupled with scores elsewhere then and on Tuesday night has meant Matlock have dropped to ninth, but still handily placed for a shot at the play-offs. Workington are seventh, two points ahead of Matlock but the Gladiators have played four fewer games.

So after the shock home defeat to lowly Corby Town in their last league outing, it is important Matlock regain that winning feeling in the league this weekend.

Joint boss Glenn Kirkwood knows his side will have to be on their guard.

“Even with those results last October Workington weren’t a bad side so we know it’ll be a mega tough game on Saturday but it’s about us, we’ve proved we’re capable of playing good football and winning football games against good sides so we’re looking forward to the game, Nico Degirolamo came off on Tuesday as a precaution with a knock on his ankle, everyone though should be fit to face a good Workington side and we’ll give them the respect they deserve.”

Matlock very nearly pulled off another huge FA Trophy upset as they led 2-0 at Barrow with twenty five minutes left only for the Bluebirds to shatter their dreams of more glory with three goals in eight minutes to scrape home.

“It was always going to be a tough ask” Kirkwood admitted, “They’re two leagues higher, flying high, a big, strong physical team. But I thought our lads equipped themselves absolutely magnificently. We thoroughly deserved our 2-0 lead and we were unlucky to not be three or four goals in front. You could say our second goal woke the dog up, they chucked everything at us. It wasn’t good play that beat us, two of the goals came from knock downs that fell nicely for them, but it came off so fair play to them for that. At 3-2 down though we never stopped playing and probing, unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Me, Hoppo and the staff are really proud of them as the fans should be, We’re bitterly disappointed, it’s taken a few days to get over it but looking at the bigger picture, we’ve had a great run, some great games, ones we all want to be involved in. Thanks also to our fans, it was a magnificent turnout from them given how far they had to travel, their support was excellent.”

Kirkwood and fellow joint manager Craig Hopkins decided to rest some players for the 4-2 win against Chesterfield and he again heaped praise on the squad.

“We gave a few players a night off and we’ve beaten a professional team with six or seven first teamers involved so it’s a brilliant result and we’re chuffed to bits to be in the semi final. In fact we’re chuffed with how things are going in general, We’ll all be working hard to give our fans more to cheer about.”

The Gladiators will be looking to progress to the last sixteen of the Integro NPL Cup when they host Basford United on Tuesday night.

Matlock have met their Evo-Stik NPL First Division South opponents just once previously when goals from Danny Holland and Lavelle White gave them a 2-0 FA Cup victory in Nottingham in September 2013.

Admission to the game has been reduced to £7 for adults and £4 for concessions.

The winners will be at home to Chasetown.

Ian Richardson

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