“Individual mistakes are killing us” declared Matlock boss Mark Atkins after a disappointing and frustrating afternoon in South Yorkshire saw the Gladiators surprisingly beaten 3-1 by lowly Stocksbridge Park Steels last weekend.

That defeat completed a miserable four days for his side who had been beaten by North West Counties League Glossop North End in the Derbyshire Senior Cup during the previous midweek.

“We can’t defend like we did during the second half and expect to win football matches” said Atkins. “The second goal was the killer, we allowed them far too much time and space in our penalty box and at the moment we’re not getting away with anything, every error is being punished and we’ve got to tighten things up.”

Atkins believes that there is nothing major to worry about in a poor run of form which has brought just one win in their last seven league games.

“It’s basically down to individual mistakes and a lack of concentration” Atkins reiterated. “We conceded in the first minute at Stocksbridge which was very disappointing but we reacted very well and should have been well in front by half time. The keeper’s made a couple of good saves early on and a fantastic one from Shaun Tuton and we were very much on top when we conceded a second goal. Once we were behind the penalty can go either way although we thought it was harsh. Then Danny was silly to get sent off, he’s apologized but it was a mistake and something we can’t afford to do.”

Matlock were already without one central defender in Adam Yates who had an operation on fractures to his cheekbone on Tuesday following his horrific injury at Glossop, so to lose another top defender in David Haggerty at half time was a blow they clearly could have done without.

Atkins is hoping he will be ready to face fellow play off contenders Marine at the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday.

“David missed the game at Glossop through sickness but declared himself fit to play at Stocksbridge but you could see by the look of him he wasn’t himself and we had to bring him off. He didn’t train on Tuesday night but will hopefully train on Thursday with a view to be fit for Marine. Oscar Radford did very well to play with a hamstring injury and put his body on the line knowing we were short in that department” Atkins added.

Striker Daryl Thomas came on for the last quarter of the match on Saturday and will be assessed on Thursday to gauge the improvement in his thigh injury which has seen him miss much of the previous two months of the campaign.

Meanwhile last season’s top marksman Lewis McMahon has been on loan at Skrill Conference North Gainsborough Trinity and he appears to have rediscovered his goalscoring form.

“The idea was for him to get games in and get his confidence back after the injuries he’s had and the suspension at the start of the season and the loan seems to have worked” Atkins explained. “He’s got five goals in four games and says he feels fit and raring to go. He’s got to stay there for the full month, but we’ll be looking to get him back with us.”

The setback last weekend saw Matlock drop back down to tenth to make it just one win from the last seven league outings, so with a challenging festive period just around the corner in which they travel to Buxton on Boxing Day and Whitby Town next Saturday before hosting Worksop Town on New Years Day, it is imperative that the Gladiators maintain an impressive home run which has seen only title favorites Chorley go home with maximum points.

“We should really have got something from the Chorley game” decreed Atkins. “we know that Marine are always a tough side to play against so we need to be on our game and not make any silly mistakes like we’ve done in recent matches.”

Ian Richardson

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