It’s a case of wait and see as far as the Matlock Town line up is concerned for Saturday’s trip to Blyth Spartans.

The major fitness doubt is goalkeeper Jon Kennedy who was forced off after just 19 minutes of Monday’s 4-2 defeat at Worksop. Kennedy had to visit hospital to be treated for cuts and bruising above and below his right eye in an accidental collision with Conor Higginson.

But Matlock will welcome back last season’s top scorer Lewis McMahon who has missed the opening four matches through suspension and central defender Adam Yates could also play his first league game of the campaign after a leg injury. But Anton Foster, Lee Featherstone and James Lukic remain on the sidelines, while Oscar Radford could be a doubt. With no other central defenders available, Radford played at Worksop in spite of having a tight hamstring.

Kennedy has told manager Mark Atkins that he wants to play at Croft Park.

Speaking on Tuesday night Atkins said “Kendo’s eye is a mess at the moment, he’s sent me a photograph today and if you saw it you’d say he’d have virtually no chance of making it on Saturday but he’s icing it as he’s desperate to play.We’ll assess him at training on Thursday and if it’s a no-go, we’ll be bringing somebody in.”

Assistant boss Nick Buxton took over between the posts following Kennedy’s injury and although Atkins has not apportioned any blame on Buxton, he believes Matlock would have won if Kennedy had stayed on.

“Kendo’s injury proved to be crucial for Nick’s not been able to play much recently. Over the last two or three years we’ve been okay when Nick’s stepped in at short notice but unfortunately this time it’s worked against us. If Jon had stopped on I think we’d have won and that’s no disrespect to Nick who would probably say the same.”

Matlock twice led at Sandy Lane and Atkins says not taking their chances when they were on top was their achilles heel.

“For sixty to sixty five minutes we were fantastic, it’s the best we’ve played this season and we should have been three or four goals up. But we weren’t and we got punished for a defensive mistake to make it 2-2, then we had a bad five minutes then started again. If we’re going to win games like these we’ve got to take those chances.”

The Gladiators have six out of a possible twelve points in a tight division with leaders Ashton United having only eight points themselves. Their second win came last Saturday in a hard fought 2-1 home win against a decent Nantwich Town.

“We did really well we got the lead and had two or three more very good chances only to let in a sloppy goal but full credit to the lads for having another good go at it and getting the winner although we weren’t as good as we’d been in the first half.”

Now Atkins wants his players to repeat the good parts of the Worksop display in the north east.

“Blyth’s a tough place to go, they’re fanatical about their football up there and they get behind their team. We’ve got to go there and take the positives from Monday and move forward.”

The Gladiators run of away games continues with a visit to Ashton on Wednesday night and AFC Fylde on Saturday week before their next home fixture against Chorley on Tuesday September 10.

Meanwhile Atkins refused to comment further on his dismissal from the dug out at Worksop in his first game back after a touchline ban.

He was frustrated by a number of decisions made by referee Chris Akers but added “the club will be dealing with the matter in the proper way by filing the appropriate report via the official channels.”

Ian Richardson

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