Matlock’s new goalkeeping coach Adam Sollitt echoed the thoughts of managerial duo and an increasing band of fans that the Gladiators’pre season work is showing signs of bearing fruit.

Performances have shown a continued upward curve since the home defeat by Nuneaton Town a fortnight ago, and although Matlock have yet to register a win in five outings, not looking out of place playing the likes of a full Mansfield Town first team,strong Chesterfield and Burton Albion line ups plus facing potential Conference North title contenders Nuneaton, and on Tuesday FC Halifax Town, should leave them in good stead with their league opener at Corby Town now a little over two weeks away.

“It’s about players getting minutes under their belts, that’s why we’ve played five games so far, so the lads can get familiar with each other, particularly with all of the changes that have been made. Their workrate’s improving all the time, it’s top notch and a pattern to their play will develop only by playing games” Sollitt explained.

Matlock lost 2-1 to Burton Albion last Saturday, Albion’s decider coming nine minutes from time while in midweek, the Gladiators deservedly held AFC Halifax Town to a 2-2 draw.

“Saturday’s was a great performance, we kept our shape against a top, well organised Championship side. Then on Tuesday it was more like a league game, Halifax began on the front foot and we let ourselves down with the goal we conceded by not picking the ball up from the big man’s (Tom Denton’s) header. So at 1-0 down we were disappointed, but our heads didn’t drop. Dwayne Wiley did ever so well to cut the ball across for Marc Newsham. Now Marc’s got two gaols in two games so that should give him confidence for the next match. We made changes in the second half and still looked very decent. Again we’re not happy with the second goal but it’s one of those situations where a young lad gets caught in two minds. But we kept on going and Toddy’s done great for the second goal. It’s down to good old fashioned hard work, the games are coming thick and fast and I believe we’re definitely going on the right direction but everything’s aimed at doing well at Corby in the first game of the season.”

Matlock made another new signing after the Halifax draw when 20 years old trialist striker Ben Partridge signed on the dotted line. Once with Chesterfield where his father John once played, Partridge has represented the Nike Academy, a full time pro-level training programme based at St Georges Park near Burton. His aggressive running helped to unhinge the Halifax defence as Matlock successfully sought a second equaliser.

Competition for places in the starting line up is certainly enhanced and with Matlock’s remaining four pre season opponents being at least one rung below them on the non league ladder, opportunity knocks for Matlock to see more of the ball instead of the other way around, as has been the case for periods in games thus far.

Tonight (Thursday), Matlock travel to NCEL Premier Division Worksop Town before going to Evo-Stik NPL First Division South Sheffield on Saturday. The NCEL/First Division South running order is maintained for the final two matches against Staveley MW on Tuesday before a trip to Belper Town seven days later.

“People will now be striving to get their names on the team sheet and that’s what it’s all about” Sollitt continued. ” Now we’re going to teams from lower divisions and now we’ve got to see what we’re like when we have the opportunity to take games to them.”

Goalkeeper Phil Barnes could miss the Worksop game after exacerbating a knee injury on Tuesday from the Burton match and also having fitness checks will be Alex Pursehouse and Jake Green, the latter having missed out against Halifax. If Barnes is out, 16 years old Jordan Pierrpoint may be handed a start.

Meanwhile Sollitt says “it’s great to be back” after taking some time out since his playing career ended.

“I’m loving it, and it’s great to see things from a different angle which means you have that chance to get your point across to players. It’s the right time and the right club for me. I really enjoyed my playing time at Matlock and I hope it’ll be the same now.”

Ian Richardson

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