Matlock head to Witton Albion with two main aims in mind on Saturday, to maintain their defensive solidarity but also to begin converting the chances that might have brought better results from their last two competitive outings.

The Gladiators have the joint third defensive record in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division, conceding just twenty one league goals in their twenty league games to date. But at the other end a tally of thirty goals scored is the joint eighth worst.

“It’s disappointing we’re not scoring more goals” manager Mark Atkins admitted. “In our last couple of games we’ve had three or four really good chances and if we’d taken just one of them in each game we’d have probably gone through in the FA Trophy plus got more points in the league.”

However in spite of dropping two points in a 1-1 draw with United of Manchester last weekend, Matlock rose to sixth place but then when United won 4-1 at whipping boys Droylsden on Tuesday night, it was Karl Marginson’s men who took over that sixth spot dropping Town down a place to seventh. A win would be gratefully accepted as Atkins’ men have not won in the league since beating Ilkeston 1-0 on October 26, with three points being taken from four games in the past month.

Atkins though maintains that it is important that Matlock followers understand the bigger picture.

“We’re seventh in the league on merit although few people expected us to be up there but we have to realize that clubs with bigger budgets are around us in the table and we’re doing it our way by not having players we can’t afford. The players in the main have been fantastic and deserve to be where they are for the hard work they’ve put in so far this season.”

Matlock have loaned out last season’s top scorer Lewis McMahon to the former Sheffield Wednesday and Notts County man’s last club Gainsborough Trinity. McMahon has failed to reach the heights of many of his performances last season with injury problems and a four game suspension to start the campaign probably being contributing factors.

“In three or four games Lewis has played recently he’s looked if he needed games so we talked the matter through and agreed it was probably better that he got games elsewhere” Atkins explained. “It’s also financially difficult to keep a top contract player on the bench. Gainsborough came in straightaway and I see it as a good deal for us, Gainsborough and Lewis. When he gets fit, (McMahon netted Trinity’s second goal in their 2-0 win at Colwyn Bay last weekend), we’ll be looking to have him back with us.”

Danny Holland drew level with the currently injured Daryl Thomas at the top of the Gladiators goalscoring chart as his tenth goal of the season gave Matlock a half time lead against United.

“I thought we were solid defensively for apart from the mistake early on when the ball ran under James Ashmore’s foot and their lad broke clear for Kendo to make a great save, they didn’t really break us down. Okay it was disappointing to concede from a set piece for the equaliser but that was all they had apart from a long shot so I was really pleased that we kept a good side quiet. We needed to take one or two of our second half chances after we scored a good goal to go in front, well finished by Danny Holland after good movement from Corey Gregory, something we’ve been working hard on. But although we had the chances we have to admit a draw was probably fair as neither side had that bit extra to win it.”

Thomas is likely to miss out again as he recovers from his thigh strain so Bradley Grayson should once more partner Holland in attack. One definite change though comes in goal as Jon Kennedy will miss a return to former club Witton for the second successive season. Last term it was through a hand injury, this time suspension is the cause as he starts a three game ban following his red card in the Doodson Cup exit at Mickleover. The Gladiators expect to complete a loan signing in time for the weekend.

Witton reached the play offs last season losing to FC United, but have found life more difficult in their second campaign back in the NPL top flight. They currently lie in eighteenth spot just one point ahead of the relegation area, but Atkins knows his team will face a tough match.

“Witton have improved of late and have some good players. They were a very good side last season and we know we’ll have to be bang on our game.”

Midfielder Jordan Snodin has returned to Matlock after playing some reserve games with Football League clubs. The nineteen year old, son of former Leeds captain Ian Snodin and nephew of ex Leeds full back Glyn Snodin was released by the Elland Road club in the summer.

“Jordan’s back fully fit and wants to be part of the set up here at Matlock” said Atkins who also hopes to have Martin Foster back after injury for the trip to Cheshire.

Atkins has also put seven days notice of approach for another player, believed to be a striker.

Ian Richardson

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