Four tough league matches on the trot now await an injury hit Matlock Town squad who reached the last eight of the Doodson Sport Cup at Grantham Town on Tuesday night.
But the pressure may well be off the players according to Gladiators boss Mark Atkins as he prepares his charges for Saturday’s trip to Chorley and then next Wednesday’s home meeting with FC United of Manchester. Then come trips to Hednesford Town and Ashton United.
“Most people will be expecting us to get beat in these games, given the opposition and our lack of numbers for one reason or another but the fact is we don’t feel that way” he insisted. “They’re tough games the lot of them. In our next two games we go to Chorley which is always a tough place to go to and then we have a very much in form FC United at our place. But on our day we can match anyone in the league and I’m sure the players will be going into these games believing they can win them.”
That was the case against Chorley back in October when Massiah McDonald struck the only goal to give Matlock maximum points.
“It was a tight game that night but we battled hard, defended well and we were dangerous going forward, so we’ll go up there on Saturday looking for a similar performance and result.” said Atkins who knows that his team will need every sinew of strength and character to halt FC United’s promotion charge on Wednesday. Since losing 1-0 at Hednesford on December 8, United have a 100% record in nine league matches.
Matlock’s unbeaten run of their own in league and cup ground to a halt at seven games for last Saturday saw play off hopefuls Witton Albion score from both of their two shots at goal to win 2-1 at the Reynolds Stadium. Matlock slipped back to 17th spot and had captain james Lukic carried off with a knee injury late in the first half.
“The result was disappointing, the performance was okay for we matched them and deserved at least a point” Atkins reckoned. “There wasn’t a lot of chances, we gave away the first goal through a stupid penalty and the second goal came from the one time we didn’t defend properly, these small margins of error are important when you play the top teams. Losing James Lukic was a big blow, everyone knows that but Laurence Gaughan came on and did well and we hope that James will be back sooner rather than later.”
Lukic did not feature at Grantham as a patched up Gladiators won 2-1 to earn a home quarter final clash with Farsley FC on March 19.
“We won’t know how he is until Friday, we’re down to the bare bones so I might have to see if I can bring someone in but that adds to the wage budget” Atkins continued.
“We had ten fit regular players and then picked up a couple more injuries in the game. Will Dennis and Anthony Griffiths-Junior had to come off, it was a shame for Will who’d played very well against Witton. Martin Foster had a back strain but wanted to play and was great for us.We had three young lads on the bench which was good to see plus Ryan Hindley for his experience but there was quality there and I was pleased with the win.”
James Travis, who began with the under 19’s and then progressed further through the Gladiators reserve side, turned in a man of the match performance after replacing the unfortunate Dennis in the 18th minute.
He received a glowing report from Atkins.
“It was touch and go whether I started him but really I didn’t want two inexperienced lads as full backs but he came on and played exceptionally well, was strong, held his position well, so we were all extremely pleased with him and he should be really proud with himself. He’s now part of the first team squad, I now know he can do a job there at left back when needed.”
The Town supremo is hoping top scorer Lewis McMahon, with 19 goals so far this season, is well down the recovery route.He was carried off with ankle ligament damage in the 4-1 Derbyshire Senior Cup win against Borrowash Victoria on January 29.
“He plans to start training again this week and we’ll see how things go but I’d like to think we can include him a week on Saturday although that’ll be the earliest” .