Matlock Town joint boss Craig Hopkins confirmed that it’s still very much a case of work in progress as he assessed the opening twelve weeks of the 2016/17 campaign

The Gladiators currently lie in ninth place with the prospect of possibly going higher as they have games in hand on most of the teams around them, plus they were unfortunate to go out of the FA Cup at the final qualifying round stage to National League North Altrincham.

Hopkins and Glenn Kirkwood were put in charge of team affairs at the DCJ Group Insurance Arena in May following former manager Mark Hume’s departure and have assembled nearly a complete new team. Only Adam Yates, Niall McManus and Ted Cribley from the 2015/16 roll call featured in the squad for last Saturday’s 1-0 win at Marine.

“It’s been a mixed so far” admitted Hopkins. “We had a poor start, and then we’ve done okay in a few games and then in the last few matches we’ve been much better, It takes time to put a side together for they have to have time to settle down but now everyone’s getting to know their jobs and what’s expected of them. We also had to find a system that suits us so there had to be one or two tweaks.”

Hopkins stressed though that despite a good run of form which sees the Gladiators at the top of the recent form table based on the last ten league matches, there is still work to be done.

“Overall we’re getting there but we’re still a long way from where we want to be. We always ask two questions after each game we play. One is what we have to do to win the next game and the other being how can we improve?”

Hopkins expanded on Kirkwood’s comment that “we didn’t play very well” in the Marine victory which came courtesy of a glorious free kick from Michael Williams on 31 minutes.

We defended well and worked hard without the ball but we weren’t particularly good with it. So the message from Saturday was we can do better. But we still had three or four very good chances and we’d have taken the 1-0 win beforehand. The three points were all important.”

The managers know they will have to have their troops well drilled for Saturday’s difficult trip to Spennymoor Town in the FA Trophy.

“Really it couldn’t be any tougher” Hopkins remarked. “They have games in hand to be well placed near the top of the league and are in the First Round of the FA Cup, so obviously they’re a strong and very organised side. The Trophy’s a great competition though and we want to go up there and give a good account of ourselves.”

Matlock will have to make at least one change to their line up as Michael Williams is suspended after collecting five yellow cards and a couple of players will be seeing Sports Therapist Mark Mullins this week with “injury niggles.”

Matlock are due to be at home on Tuesday to Barwell in the league although a draw at Spennymoor for Matlock or for Barwell at Ilkeston will see the replay take precedence.

It will be Matlock’s first home match since the scoreless draw with Blyth Spartans on October 11 and Hopkins admits his side are itching to play again on home soil.

“It seems like we’ve been living on the bus recently so we’ll be glad to get back to Matlock to play and hopefully there’ll be a good crowd to watch us for the lads deserve that” Hopkins added.

IAN RICHARDSON

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