Matlock skipper James Lukic is to see a specialist to try to get to the root of a troublesome knee injury which has seen him play no part yet in the Gladiators’ preparations for the new season.

The 31 year old classy central defender, who made his 600th appearance for the Gladiators in the 1-1 draw with Buxton last New Years day has high hopes of beating the club’s record appearance total of 673 set by former player manager Mick Fenoughty in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

But a number of injuries kept Lukic out of the side last season and he had to sit out the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final defeat to Ilkeston at Chesterfield’s Pro-Act Stadium.

“It’s frustrating for us all and in particular James who is a fantastic player for us and a tremendous captain” said Atkins. “But the injury’s troubling him and it needs getting to the bottom of so he needs to see a specialist to find out the extent of it.”

Fortunately Matlock seemed well blessed with capable central defenders in new recruit David Haggerty, signed this summer from Buxton, Oscar Radford and current supporters player of the year Adam Yates.

The trio have shone in the last two friendly games in which Conference Premier Alfreton were held to a 2-2 draw on Friday night before Matlock went down 2-0 at Conference North new boys Hednesford on Tuesday.

Atkins feels he has learned a lot from both matches.

“Both games have been very useful, the higher opposition you can play the more you can gain in terms of fitness levels and knowing what the players can do. I learned a lot more from the Hednesford match,the difference in the second half from the first half was immense, we were miles away from where we wanted to be in the first half but we did very well in the second half with the changes we made. They were two very good games for us.”

Atkins says he is very hopeful of adding a quality signing to the ranks in the next few days.

“We’ve agreed terms with the lad who will give us strength, composure on the ball, is a team player and has had success in our league and the one above” he said as he added “pre-season’s going okay, we’ve lads who’ve not been available,Micky Harcourt and Anton Foster were missing on Tuesday, we’re still finding our feet a bit as we get more games under our belt, but later we’ll need to think about the line-up for the first league match at Trafford and focus our selection around that.”

Matlock travel to Ossett Albion on Saturday (3pm) before returning home to face Derby County on Tuesday (7.45pm) when Matlock officials hope that Nigel Clough will send a side with plenty of first team experience.

Meanwhile the Gladiators under 18 side, managed by Steve Wooliscroft who has seen his players develop from boys to youth football with great success in the Rowsley Youth League, winning trophies in the last three years are at home to Marine under 18’s on Sunday. Marine, of course, have been both fierce and friendly rivals of Matlock at first team level for many of the last thirty campaigns.

Entry to the game which kicks off at noon, is free and the Social Club will be open.

“We’re building a strong team which we feel contains players well capable of developing into under19 and reserve team players. We’re playing in the Derby City League this season which is a very good standard and we’re really looking forward to taking on Marine in what should be an excellent game” said Wooliscroft.”

IAN RICHARDSON

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