If the wintry weather relents, Matlock Town have the chance to gain a second Saturday home league win of the season this weekend, just two weeks after their first.
After a 3-2 success against Grantham in their last outing, the Gladiators face a potentially much sterner test with league leaders North Ferriby United due in town which will mean a return to the Reynolds Stadium for two former Matlock employees. Ferriby’s manager is former Gladiators skipper Billy Heath while a more recent and familiar name in Liam King is likely to wear the number four shirt he wore with such consistency in his four years with Matlock.
Given the present conditions, the chances of any action for the Gladiators on Saturday look slim and there may be the feeling of deja vous experienced during the past fortnight as home ties in the Derbyshire Senior and Doodson Sports League Cups against Borrowash Victoria and Carlton Town respectively, plus last weekend’s trip to second placed Hednesford Town all fell by the wayside.
But Matlock know that preparation is all important and manager Mark Atkins has had his players in for training as usual, albeit not at their usual outdoor facilities. Sessions have been inside and on an artificial five a side pitch.
“It’s been a case of getting things done the best we can” said Atkins who knows that it is important that his side builds on the Grantham result which saw Town stay in seventeenth spot but significantly put extra daylight between them and the Gingerbreads plus others struggling in and around the relegation zone.
“Our home form isn’t as good as we would all have liked for whatever reason, but now we must try and pick up as many points as we can to move up the table as fast as we can.”
Most pundits would put their money on an away win this weekend and Ferriby also need the points, currently four points better off than Hednesford but the Midlanders have two games in hand.
Atkins is encouraged by his side’s performance in a narrow 2-1 defeat on Humberside in October.
“It’s always good to challenge a top of the league side. Ferriby have changed things around considerably this season and have brought in a lot of good players with the money they’ve had at their disposal which has put them in a strong position at the top. But we played very well up there and Liam King admitted afterwards that the better side had lost. We should have won comfortably but didn’t. If we play our way and play well then we’re capable of beating them.”
Winger Ben Hunter who came back to Matlock earlier this month after a year with North Ferriby might make his first appearance since returning to the fold. At least the cold weather has given last week’s injury doubts Adam Yates, James Ashmore and Lewis McMahon extra time to recover. All three trained this week and should be available.
Atkins found time to praise ex Gladiator King ahead of his first return to the Reynolds Stadium.
“You can never take away what Liam did for us while he was here, he was consistently one of our best players, a mainstay of the side, he was excellent and we wish him all the best after Saturday.”
The Borrowash tie will now be played this coming Tuesday while the Carlton game has a new date of Tuesday February 12, meaning that the scheduled home league fixture with AFC Fylde due to be played on that night, will have to be rearranged. Matlock are also at home next weekend to Ashton United.
By Ian Richardson.