Matlock Town joint bosses Craig Hopkins and Glenn Kirkwood say they have no regrets at making ten changes to their starting line up which lost out by the narrowest of margins to First Division South promotion chasers Basford United in the Integro NPL Cup on Tuesday night.
Basford won 9-8 on penalties after the ninety minutes had seen the sides share four goals, Matlock twice coming from behind to level matters.
Only Joe Doyle-Charles remained from the starting eleven beaten 2-1 at home by Workington at the weekend, a result which dented the Gladiators’ play off hopes as they slipped to eleventh in the table.
But if Matlock can rediscover their form of a month ago, the play-offs are not out of reach, and that was probably in the back of the joint managers’ minds as they pondered their League Cup line up.
“We have no regrets whatsoever, the Basford game was something like our 40th game so far this season and it’s not the end of January yet. That’s possibly why we looked a little flat against Workington. You can’t keep playing the same eleven week in, week out, the players are only human, they have lives and work outside of football and I think it showed on Saturday, especially coming on the back of two really difficult cup games at Barrow and against Chesterfield. We’re both happy about making ten changes against a Basford side bursting to win.”
History was made as Harry Wood became the first player born after the millenium to play a first team game for the Gladiators. Wood, whose father Andy played for Matlock under Ron Reid’s management twenty five years ago, only turned sixteen a couple of weeks ago, and the Matlock supremos think he has a bright future.
“What a player Harry Wood will be ” beamed Kirkwood with Hopkins adding “he did really well and looks to be a great prospect. He certainly wasn’t out of place at this level.”
Reflecting more on the Workington setback, Hopkins wondered whether the nearly tragic pre match incident in which the kick off was delayed after a spectator had a cardiac arrest and was rushed to hospital affected his players.
“It may have played some part but it’s not an excuse. We just wasn’t our normal selves. It’s the first time we’ve noticed the players flat in the dressing room,it’s just not like us. Then Joe (Doyle-Charles) was silly to get sent off, it didn’t make things any easier. The poor goal we gave away at the end probably summed up how we played. Apart from the first fifteen minutes when we scored we were second best, we didn’t turn up against one of the better sides we’ve played, every single Workington player was up for it, they were obviously hurting after our two wins up there.”
Attention now turns to an even more difficult looking assignment at top of the table Blyth Spartans on Saturday, with both clubs having mutual admiration for one another.
In confirming the game, Spartans have told Matlock in an e mail “it should be a great game as Matlock are the best side we’ve faced so far this season” (the teams drew 0-0 in a game Town dominated at the DCJ Group Arena in October).
Hopkins said quite simply “they’re the best team in the league, how they never went up last season I’ll never know,never mind Robbie Dale and Sean Reid who are both brilliant, they have eleven great players, a great partisan home crowd but it’s these sort of games you want.”
Matlock should be at full strength apart from Doyle-Charles who begins a three match ban. Curtis Morrison may make the starting line up after being a substitute against Workington twenty four hours after rejoining the Gladiators on laon from Chesterfield and then starting against Basford.
“Curtis needed his goal in midweek. He’d been ill a couple of weeks ago and not been into work at Chesterfield, in fact he’s still recovering but we know what he gives us and we’re delighted he’s back with us as I’m sure the fans are” Hopkins said.
Hopkins has been in touch with the supporter who collapsed before the Workington game, contacting his brother who was visiting him in hospital and being able to speak to the patient directly.
“I rang him on behalf of the club and we’ve invited him to a game when he gets better. He’s showing good signs of recovery and I want to thank everyone at the club for the way things were handled, the club can be really proud of itself.”