Matlock wasted the chance to sit at the top of the table after the midweek games, two points being dropped when Sutton Coldfield’s Gurgit Singh completed his hat-trick with only three minutes to go.
That honour is now Stafford Rangers, but only by a point after their 2-0 win at Mickleover in a tightly contested division which sees the Gladiators in fourth spot.
Shaun Harrad, Dwayne Wiley and Ted Cribley had been on target as Matlock recovered twice from going behind and then being in front, this 3-3 draw following a hard fought 1-0 home victory over one of the title favourites Altrincham on Saturday when Wiley was again on target.
Joint boss Glenn Kirkwood experienced a mix of emotions over those four days being delighted with the Altrincham victory but being frustrated at Sutton Coldfield.
“Everyone who pulled on a shirt was steely determined to secure that victory and it was an outstanding battling performance to keep a side of Altrincham’s quality out” said Kirkwood. “Altrincham have excellent players, an excellent manager and won’t be down the bottom end for long. Every single player worked their socks off and we’ re delighted and proud of every one of them.”
But he was less enthusiastic after the game on Tuesday, one that his side realistically would probably have been expected to win after their first three results.
“There’s no doubt it feels like a loss, especially with their last goal coming so late on but if you don’t take your chances and give goals away like we did then you’re going to become unstuck” Kirkwood added.
“We gifted Sutton their first two goals and to be fair we did ever so well to come back and be level at half time. We got at them and deservedly went in front and we thought we could go on and add a fourth or even a fifth. But we didn’t kill the game off and then we couldn’t see the game out which is a big shame. I know it’s very early in the season but we could have gone top. Sutton though are decent on their own pitch, their home form kept them up last season.”
Attention now turns to two difficult August Bank Holiday fixtures. Its Warrington away on Saturday before the Gladiators host Grantham Town on Monday afternoon (3 pm).
Both sides have topped the league so far this term, Warrington going into the midweek games at the summit before losing at home to Ashton United who also inflicted Grantham’s first defeat last weekend when the Gingerbreads led the way after two wins to start the season. Grantham then surprisingly lost at home to Coalville on Tuesday.
“ We now have two very difficult games and need to go again” said Kirkwood. “This is a very tight, competitive league where anyone can beat anyone else. We’re still unbeaten but we need to pick up as many points as we can. Our away form let us down in the league at times last season. We’ve got two draws away so far but before long we know we’ve got to start winning more games away from home.”
On the player front summer signing Rory Coleman and the experienced Cleveland Taylor have departed the DCJ Group Arena. Coleman played just sixteen competitive minutes for Matlock in his first with the club seven years ago, and this time didn’t make the field at all. He has now rejoined one of his former clubs, Stocksbridge Park Steels. Taylor has moved to Coalville after moving from Barwell to Matlock last February.
“Both want to play regularly which is totally understandable” Kirkwood said. “Jake Green has been absolutely outstanding so has kept Rory out, while Cleveland’s a great lad, he has been a big
influence around the place who has done very well for us. But Joe Doyle-Charles has been impressive, and with Ryan Wilson and Callum Lloyd coming in, he’s not manged a place. Both go with our best wishes.”
Matlock will be looking to replace both players with Kirkwood keeping his cards close to his chest as to who will come in and when except to say “we need to strengthen.”
A slight hamstring injury kept Rhys Sharpe on the bench on Tuesday while Michael Williams has started running and is a week to a fortnight away from a return.
Meanwhile the FA Cup First Qualifying Round draw threw up an interesting tie for Matlock who travel to Shrewsbury next weekend to face Haughmond from the Midland Football League, Premier Division.
Haughmond won promotion from the West Midlands League during the summer and after collecting one point out of six, they caused a major upset in the previous round by knocking out Bedworth United from The Evo-Stik NPL First Division South in the last round.
“It’s a potential banana skin for us and we need to be fully focussed when the game comes around. They had a great result at Bedworth and will be wanting to cause another upset, but we want to do well in the cup and try and get through one more round than last season. But that’s to come, we’ll be looking at Warrington first and then Grantham after that.”