“Not good enough” was the painful verdict of Matlock manager Mark Atkins after the opening two matches of the new campaign yielded just a solitary point, no goals from open play and a place in the bottom four of the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division.
His team brought home a point from Saturday’s drab curtain raiser at Trafford which saw precious few openings for either side, but the defeat to Stamford at the Autoworld Arena would have alarm bells ringing for Atkins and the Gladiators followers.
A Danny Holland penalty put Matlock into a 3rd minute lead, but that great start could not be built upon as for the final seventy minutes, the visitors outplayed them to come from behind and deservedly go home with maximum points from a 2-1 victory.
“Those two performances were not up to standard. We were defensively strong at Trafford, had two or three chances which we didn’t take, overall 0-0 was fair. But we simply had too many players off form against Stamford, they didn’t give their full effort and didn’t show the determination which was required. There’s only Joe Leesley and Josh Meade, two young lads, of the outfield players that can come out of the game with any credit. Everyone else wasn’t good enough, Stamford outnumbered and outfought us in the vital areas, they wanted it more and that shouldn’t happen” said a clearly upset Atkins.
There was an emphatic hint from the boss that changes would be made for Saturday’s visit of Blyth Spartans and Monday’s derby trip to Belper.
“Things have got to change quickly and while it’s the second game of the season and not the end of the world, we must improve and I’ll be looking at Thursday’s training and thinking long and hard between now and the weekend as to who can come in. There’s eight places to play for on Saturday.”
Even a change of tactics failed to have the desired effect on Tuesday, with a change from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 for the second half.
“We set up in a 4-4-2 to try and attack and got a great start with the penalty but really we had nothing going forward and Stamford passed it around us, they had three or four first half chances and we could have been comfortably behind. We changed things to try and stop them playing but still we couldn’t get the better of them and we lost through two defensive mistakes.” Atkins continued.
Stamford appeared to be physically stronger than Matlock but Atkins resounded “We’ve at least six six footers so the strength should be there but sometimes it’s not just about physical strength. It can be more about the desire you have and the ability to use it to the greatest potential.”
Atkins admits Matlock are “light up front.”
“We seem to be creating half chances at the moment, we’ve worked at our attacking play in training for the past three weeks but we’re not bringing that into the games at present.”
A tough Bank Holiday programme is on the cards.
“Blyth are a good strong side and although they got beat on Tuesday, they’ll be very tough to play against as usual. Then for me Belper ‘s our toughest game of the season and we’ve got to show a lot more fight and determination down there.”
Before last weekend, Atkins signed midfielder Jason Snodin, for a second time and also brought in young striker Sam Robinson, formerly of Farsley who has more recently been with Stalybridge Celtic, to take his close season signings tally to eleven.
On the injury front Phil Roe is likely to be missing for another fortnight with a foot problem but James Ashmore, who has not figured at all during the pre season programme, will train on Thursday but is unlikely to figure in either of the Blyth or Belper clashes.