What a difference a few days can make was emphasised at the DCJ Group Insurance Arena on Tuesday when Matlock grabbed their first win of the season beating Sutton Coldfield Town 3-1.

But at the weekend, the Gladiators made a terrible mess of their first Saturday home game 2016/17 as they were thumped 4-0 by Nantwich Town leaving Glenn Kirkwood and co boss Craig Hopkins feeling both the highs and lows of football management.

Kirkwood pulled no punches as he reflected on the Nantwich defeat.

“We were bitterly disappointed by how we played, we were okay for the first half hour and if we could have stuck a chance away it would have been a different game. But we didn’t and we gifted Nantwich two goals before half time. Then in the second half we were really upset with the performance where there was no hint of a fightback so it was a horrible few days until Tuesday. All you can think of is the result.”

Matlock’s management wasted no time in trying to improve the team’s fortunes as by the time Sutton Coldfield got proceedings under way in midweek, two new strikers had been added to the Gladiators starting line up.

Twenty years old Nottingham University student Arel Amu, once with Luton Town and has also played non league with both Dunstable Town and Barton Rovers, was the first to sign up, having made a substitute appearance in Matlock’s pre season friendly against Chesterfield in July. Then following him was eighteen years old Marcus Dinanga on loan from Burton Albion, who capped a good debut by scoring the match clinching third goal as Matlock netted three times in eleven minutes after Laurie Wilson’s 55th minute penalty had been saved by goalkeeper James Wren.

“Marcus was superb, we knew him from Mickleover last season and he’s an England under 19 international who’s got himself a professional contract at Burton. Arel also did very well, we needed to freshen things up a bit in attack.”

That “freshening up” led to Marc Newsham being on the substitutes bench along with Niall McManus, both of whom made a positive impact when brought on. McManus was instrumental in two of the goals while Newsham’s equaliser was his first of the season.

“We had to change it, we couldn’t go on doing the same things” Kirkwood admitted. “And for twenty five minutes on Tuesday we looked like a team well beaten on Saturday, but that last hour or so was as good as we’ve played. The players carried out our instructions to a tee. At half time we said to them, do as we ask and if things don’t work out we’ll hold our hands up and we’ll take all the blame. Everyone, substitutes included, played their part. Michael Williams was brilliant and showed the qualities he has while Marc Newsham looked a different player and was a constant threat when he came on. But everyone took responsibility, it could have been five or six in the end.”

So Saturday’s frowns had been transformed to Tuesday smiles.

“It’s so nice to get that first win, and we can wake up on Wednesday knowing things are better than they were beforehand, It’s a nice feeling but we still know we’ve got to improve. But hopefully confidence will have been lifted, we wore Sutton down. Now we’ve also got to keep it going.”

That next test is at Warrington Town on Saturday, the Wire having been promoted to the top tier for the first time having easily won the First Division North last term.

Warrington beat Stourbridge on the opening day but have since suffered successive losses to Spennymoor Town, Grantham Town and Whitby Town.

“It’ll be a tough game and all of our concentration will be on going there and trying to get a result. They’ve strengthened their side since last season but we need to go there and replicate our second half display from Tuesday.”

Laurie Wilson will be missing as he starts a three game ban after being sent off against Nantwich.

Matlock are currently scheduled to be hosting Ilkeston on August Bank Holiday Monday (3pm), but due to Ilkeston currently being suspended from playing by the Northern Premier League, there is doubt whether the match will go ahead.

The Robins are yet to play this season as home games against Stafford Rangers and Spennymoor and trips to Whitby and Stourbridge have been postponed as the League is yet to receive evidence of payment to outstanding creditors by Ilkeston FC.

The clash would attract one of Matlock’s best gates of the season with many visiting fans expected to make the short journey from the Erewash Valley, so if Monday’s game suffers the same fate as Ilkeston’s scheduled matches so far, Matlock would lose out on some valuable income.

“There’s nothing we can tell our supporters so far, obviously we would like the game to be played. All we can say is to check the club’s website www.matlocktown fc.co.uk regularly before Monday for the latest news” said Chairman Tom Wright,

Meanwhile The Gladiators will face Heanor Town in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round after the Lions scored a last gasp decider to edge out Long Eaton United 3-2 last Friday night. Kirkwood and Hopkins have managed Heanor, coach Danny Cox and defenders Dwayne Wiley and Nico de Girolamo also being with them at the Town Ground. The sides will clash at the DCJ Group Insurance Arena on Saturday September 3.

Ian Richardson

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