Two costly defeats in three days seem to have scuppered Matlock’s play off aspirations, but manager Mark Atkins insists there is still plenty to play for.

Few would have envisaged struggling Stafford Rangers inflicting just a second home defeat on Matlock at the Autoworld Arena on Saturday with a 2-0 win, before the Gladiators went down to the only goal of the game in a scrappy contest at Stamford on Tuesday.

The Stafford setback though was all the more costly as star defender and potential player of the season David Haggerty was stretchered off after 65 minutes with a facial injury, later diagnosed at Chesterfield Royal Hospital as being two broken bones under an eye after a collision with Stafford goalkeeper Andrew Jones.

Atkins confirmed that Haggerty’s season is over.

“He’ll be out for eight weeks so that’s it for this season and it’s a massive blow for us because he’s been absolutely fantastic for us. Okay we lost the game to Stafford but the main point is Dave’s injury and we’ve been terribly unlucky to get two similar injuries to two great defenders this season with Adam Yates being out for a spell. His attitude and commitment have been tremendous as I’m sure the fans have acknowledged, the important thing now is that he gets himself right, not only for the club and next season, but for himself as well.”

Matlock missed a host of chances against Stafford and with it the power and penetration suspended striker Shaun Tuton might have brought to the party, having netted eight times in the Gladiators previous five league outings.

Now co-striker Danny Holland faces a four match ban following his second red card of the season at Stamford, although Tuton will be back by the time Holland’s ban commences. Holland was sent off after a 34th minute altercation with Alvin Jarvis, who ironically was awarded Stamford’s man of the match award!

It all led to feelings of frustration for Atkins.

“We played really well in the opening thirty or so minutes against Stafford, if one chance had gone in early on then I think we’d have scored three or four. Then Stafford got their chance from the penalty, caused by us not breaking up their move quickly enough and after playing well we found ourselves up against it. We still dominated the second half but not at full pelt, their second goal being down to bad defending. They had two chances and scored both, we had probably ten and didn’t, so it was one of those days. Then at Stamford they’ve scored from their first and maybe only real chance, then Danny’s got sent off. But with ten men we were the better side, only we didn’t create all that much but our effort and determination was first class.”

On Holland’s red card, Atkins added “Danny’s admitted he pushed the lad in the face but the linesman hasn’t mentioned their lad smack Danny in the face first and as an official at this level you need to ensure you see the whole situation. I’m not condoning what Danny did but both players should have gone and if they’re both off I’m pretty sure we’d have gone on to win the game.”

Now Matlock make a first ever trip to Barwell on Saturday before facing Rushall Olympic at the Autoworld Arena on Tuesday night.

Oscar Radford, who has missed the last two matches, will undergo a fitness check but Atkins is trying to add to his now depleted, small squad.

“I tried to bring a young lad in after Saturday but he got injured on Monday” Atkins explained. “But budgetary considerations come into it with the two injured lads being on contract. However we’ll battle on through and we’ll strengthen if we can, there’s still ten games to go, thirty points to play for, so even if the play offs are beyond us, we’ll strive to finish as high as we can.”

IAN RICHARDSON

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