It was a Merry Christmas for Matlock Town as their festive programme got off to the best of starts with the 4-0 demolition of Rushall Olympic at Dales Lane on Boxing Day, so now the question is can the Gladiators make it even better in the away match at Worksop Town on Saturday before they host Buxton on New Years Day?
The size of the win would have shocked many people, it was the Gladiators’ highest of the season against a side with the best defensive record in the division. The Pics had conceded just twenty one goals in seventeen games prior to facing Matlock.
“It could have been six or seven as their goalkeeper’s made two or three great saves and Joe Leesley was unlucky when he struck the post” said Matlock boss Mark Atkins who conceded that he was not one hundred per cent happy with the performance.
“I was pleased with the result obviously in difficult conditions it was thoroughly deserved and four goals plus a clean sheet away from home is not to be sniffed at. In the first half I don’t think we started too badly but then four or five of us weren’t at the races. So I had a few words at half time as I felt we’d be wasting a great chance of claiming all three points if we didn’t take it on from here and to be fair to the lads they bossed the second half. I was glad when Rushall missed their penalty for it was a big moment in the game.”
Matlock had gone ahead from the spot themselves as Lewis McMahon calmly stroked in his fifteenth goal of the season on 16 minutes before Mitchell Tolley struck the top of the bar with his strike two minutes before the interval. Then in the second half Matlock’s striking duo of Massiah McDonald and Jacob Hazel cakme into their own with McDonald netting twice and Hazel once to give Town their emphatic win and end a losing streak of three games in the league.
McMahon slotted in just behind the front two but although there has been a slight change in personnel recently,Atkins says the system remains unchanged from when he altered things prior to a 3-2 win at Stocksbridge in October which kick-started the Gladiators season.
“The system gives lads licence to roam, we have a lot of fluidity which means that opponents can’t pick you up so easily” he explained. “We have players who are adept at playing this system and the two front lads are quick. Pace gets you a long way in this league and with Lewis McMahon supporting them the system works well for us for he’s very creative and can find space comfortably.”
The one worry after Boxing Day surrounds skipper James Lukic who was helped off with a groin injury two minutes from time. He will be desperate to be fit to play at Worksop for the home game with Buxton will mark his 600th appearance for the Gladiators, as he currently stands on 598. This leaves him in second spot in the Matlock career appearances chart and injuries permitting, Mick Fenoughty’s 672 table topping total should be beaten in the next couple of years.
“We’ll have to wait to see how he is because it’s likely to stiffen up, knowing James he’ll want to play if he can. The 600 appearances thing is well in our minds and it would be fitting for him to make it there against Buxton but we’ll just have to see how things go.”
Should Lukic not make it at Worksop, Laurence Gaughan is likely to be brought in as Micky Harcourt completes a two game ban. McDonald will have to sit the game out as Worksop did not want him to play against them and put the clause into the smallprint of the initial loan agreement which expires at the end of the month when McDonald then becomes a permanent Matlock player.
Worksop and Buxton will provide Matlock with tough tests as Atkins acknowledges. The Tigers are fifth and the Bucks lie in seventh spot after boxing day victories at home to Grantham 3-2 and at home to Stocksbridge 7-0 respectively.
“Worksop are on a good run, they’re a good side and with the players they’ve signed, including Sam Denton from Alfreton, they’ll be up there like I expected. Buxton’s also going well and both clubs have high budgets to enable them to make these signings. I’ve spoken to most of these players, but the money they want is way out of our league. However I’ll stress I’m happy with the squad I’ve got,they’re good honest lads who work hard and there’s tremendous spirit. The two games will be good ones for us and we’ll see how near or far we are from challenging at the top end.”