Matlock Town could finish the season in any position from twelfth to eighth once their last game of the season finishes at Marine on Saturday. It represents a marked improvement on last season with roughly half as many more league points being won than twelve months ago.
The Gladiators head to Merseyside knowing that a win would take them up to a creditable points total of seventy and possibly eighth spot, depending of course on other results.
Four dropped points over Easter from 1-1 draws at Nantwich Town and at the Autoworld Arena against Buxton see Matlock in twelfth, with the Nantwich result in particular being the frustrating one.
The Gladiators took an early lead through Danny Holland who also twice struck the woodwork, and Matlock missed other chances to put the match to bed before they conceded a sloppy leveler early in the second period. But against Buxton in a rather tame local derby, they needed a late equalizer from Oscar Radford to earn their point after former Gladiator Lee Morris had headed the Bucks in front.
“We had good chances at Nantwich and should have won the game” manager Mark Atkins reflected, agreeing that the game in many ways summed up their season.
“We played well in the first half and were disappointed to be just the one goal up but Nantwich were better in the second half although we were again frustrated to concede another goal from a set piece. It was definitely a dropped two points from our point of view. When you get four or five really good opportunities away from home, you need to be looking at getting two or three goals. This can make a real difference and is a contributory factor why we’re more in mid table than in the top six or eight. Danny Holland was really unlucky though, he scored with a great finish and hit both the post and bar with great headers. He’s been fantastic for us and in training last Thursday you could tell he was itching to get back, there was a real spring in his step.”
Atkins reckoned the derby against Buxton, Matlock’s last home game of the campaign, lacked quality from both sides.
“Both teams battled but there wasn’t much quality. One goal looked like winning it and it looked like going Buxton’s way when they scored but although our football wasn’t great, the lads deserve credit for continuing to battle and we got a deserved draw”.
Marine have done just enough to stay out of the dreaded bottom four, having a four point advantage over fourth bottom Frickley Athletic who will be relying on reprieves to maintain their Premier Division status.
“We want to go there and finish the campaign on a high” Atkins continued. “It probably makes life easier with Marine not needing anything from the match but we must be conscious that they’ll be wanting a decent finish after a poor season by their standards. It’s all about us though and the higher we can finish the better.”
Midfielder Cecil Nyoni will be ruled out through suspension but Joe Leesley is back after completing his two match ban. On the injury front, Lavell White is definitely out with a groin problem, while there are doubts about both Micky Harcourt and Martin Foster, who were both forced off against Buxton. Atkins is likely to take some of the under 19 squad with him to Crosby.