Matlock boss Dave Frecklington was delighted with the point from the Boxing Day draw at Buxton and again paid tribute to the vocal visiting support.
All four goals in the 2-2 draw were condensed into twelve first half minutes with John Pritchard and former Gladiator Bradley Grayson putting the Bucks two goals in front before Marcus Marshall and Adam Yates replied with quick strikes in the final five minutes of the half. Buxton held the upper hand for the first section of the new half before the Gladiators finished on the offensive and could easily have repeated the 3-2 win on the same ground of last April when again, Matlock were two goals behind.
“It was an excellent point and a fair result at the end of the day. I was delighted after being 2-0 down to get the point but equally we could so easily have won it late on. They had a couple of chances but we had some excellent chances as we finished the stronger and the more aggressive as the game went on. To be fair the goalie’s pulled off a worldie to keep us out.”
It was the Matlock chief’s first experience of an A6 derby which attracted a gate of 880 with in excess of 300 fans making the journey up the A6 to cheer on the Gladiators.
“It was excellent, a really good game for a derby. Some derbies don’t live up to the hype but both teams were competitive and it made for a really exciting game. It was a fantastic crowd and our fans were truly magnificent and played a massive part. To see and hear the reception we got after the game was absolutely fantastic, it felt like a home game for us. We really appreciate the backing we’re getting, both home and away, we feel that the whole town is behind us and long may it continue. The fans deserve a big thank you from us, it’s really humbling to hear them with their songs about us, it feels like we’re one big family.”
One area of concern for Frecklington though is the goals against column. Matlock have not kept a clean sheet in league or cup since a 7-0 home win against Grantham Town on October 23. Yates hit Matlock’s 50th league goal of the season on Boxing Day to leave them as the division’s second highest scorers but conversely the 47 they have conceded in their 24 league matches so far is the second worst.
The Gladiators have conceded the first goal in each of their last three matches and have fought their way back into contention, but Frecklington acknowledged his concern.
“We’ve told the lads in the dressing room that this can’t keep on happening. The penny needs to drop with the players. Take Buxton with the stupid decision to commit a foul from which they scored the first goal. We were punished. We’re not always going to get back in games like we’ve done recently and we’re fully aware that we’ve not kept a clean sheet since the Grantham game. Our game management is costing us, we’re relying heavily on our front four and midfield, we need all eleven coming to the party.”
With Nathan Whitehead out for four to six weeks with a knee injury and Harry Vince and Michael Williams having been long term injury victims, Cleveland Taylor was taken off with a knock on the knee as a precautionary measure at Buxton. Marshall also came off after receiving a bang in the face but both are expected to be fit to face Gainsborough Trinity in a six pointer at the Proctor Cars Stadium on New Years Day (3pm).
Frecklington and assistant Terry Fleming will be up against the club which sacked them last season, while Craig King, Taron Hare, Tom Davie and Brad Beatson are all former Trinity players. Gainsborough are likely to field Matlock goalscoring legend Ross Hannah but his brother in law, former Matlock midfielder Liam King, has not featured for the last couple of months.
Trinity and Matlock both have 38 points, Matlock having played one game more. The Gladiators have been beaten only once in their last fifteen league matches while Gainsborough come into the game having lost at Whitby and at home to Grantham in their last two outings.
“It’s just another game” said Frecklington. “Three points are up for grabs. We’re playing against a club I’ve managed and one we’ve managed to catch in terms of points. We’re now three points off the play-off places, really we shouldn’t be anywhere near them considering we were bottom at the start of October. Okay me and Terry are facing our old club but it’s a big game for the importance of the three points and if we can win it’ll send us closer to those play off places. There’s obviously a bit of spice with us having former Gainsborough players here, and with players still at Gainsborough I took there. Ross Hannah will be keen to do well on his return to Matlock where he was fantastic so it’s set for a really exciting game and we hope for another big crowd behind us.”
Matlock’s home Derbyshire Senior Cup semi-final against Alfreton Town has been put back to Tuesday 12 February after discussions between both clubs in conjunction with the Derbyshire FA.