Matlock climbed to third in the NPL Premier Division table with Saturday’s 2-1home win against Marine and Tuesday night’s 2-0 success at foot of the table Skelmersdale United, but joint bosses Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins insist their lofty position is not relevant with two months of the season still to play.

” Our league position means nothing at the moment, there’s still fifteen games to play, nearly a third of the season, there’s plenty of football to be played by us and all of the other sides yet” said Kirkwood.

That statement could make a lot of sense considering Matlock had to battle hard to win both games against teams they were expected to beat.

“Marine and Skelmersdale were two tough Scouse sides, we got the sort of games we expected. We didn’t play well in either game but sometimes it’s more about the win than anything else. Of course we like to play open attractive football but it’s not always possible. We want to play good football to entertain our fans but sometimes it’s a matter of battling your way through games and we certainly did that. It’s no coincidence we’ve scored late goals quite frequently for we think we’re one of the fittest, if not the most fit side in our league.”

Curtis Morrison came on as a substitute to score a stunning 85th minute decider last weekend and was then called up to start at Skelmersdale in place of the injured Ted Cribley.

“It was a fantastic strike and it shows what Curtis can do, we feel he’s returning to the form he was in just before he went back to Chesterfield in December” said Hopkins.

The present squad is one of the strongest at Matlock for a number of years, a fact Hopkins reflected on.

“To be honest we’ve got seventeen very good players and choosing a starting line up when everyone’s fit and available is really, really difficult, it’ll be a real headache on Saturday, that’s for sure. But it’s that sort of competition and rivalry we’re looking for, no-one at the moment wants to miss out.”

It’s derby day on Saturday at the DCJ Group Arena when Hopkins and Kirkwood face the side they managed before coming to Matlock in Mickleover Sports. Coach Danny Cox along with players Liam Marsden, Jake Green, Nico Degirolamo, Dwayne Wiley and Marcus Dinanga have appeared in Mickleover colours. Former Gladiators Jack Broadhead, Tom Burgin and Kevin Grocott could all feature for Sports.

“It’s just another game as far as Hoppo and me are concerned” said Kirkwood. “It’s all about concentrating on winning this game and then moving on to the next one. If we win it 1-0 or 2-1 that’ll do for me,you get the same number of points whether you win 1-0,10-9 or 10-0.”

Mickleover won the first fixture at the Don Amott Arena in September, a Liam Marsden own goal and a sublime strike from Andy Dales giving Mickleover a 2-0 interval lead which they maintained until the final whistle.

Cribley was rested at Skelmersdale after picking up a knock against Marine and is expected to return along with goalkeeper Phil Barnes.

Nico Degirolamo could keep out Jake Green at full back after impressing at Skelmersdale.

He was named as Matlock’s star man with Kirkwood adding “he was very unlcuky to be left out when we brought Adam Yates back in, but he’s taken it on the chin and come back in and was absolutely outstanding at Skelmersdale.”

Encouragingly crowds at the DCJ Group Arena have significantly increased with 441 including probably twenty from Marine showing up for last weekend’s match.

“That was a great crowd, well done to everyone, especially in those final fifteen minutes when the crowd turned up the volume and it seemed as if they were willing us to score that goal and see us over the line. The players acknowledge the support they get all the time, they comment on it and really appreciate it. It’d be great if we could keep that figure and the noise level increasing” said Hopkins.

Matlock travel to Frickley Athletic on Tuesday and play off rivals Stourbridge on Saturday week. Coach travel is being organised for fans to go to Stourbridge with a departure time of 11 am from the ground, contact Tom Wright on 07850 065968 to book your place.

IAN RICHARDSON

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