Next weekend Matlock Town face their biggest cup game for many years when Blue Square Conference Premier promotion chasing and former top flight club Luton Town come to the Reynolds Stadium in the last thirty two of the FA Trophy. The Hatters beat Dorchester Town 3-1 in their First Round replay at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night.
But while the Luton game is one that everyone connected with the Gladiators can eagerly look forward to, there’s important bread and butter business to attend to first.
Matlock lie in 17th spot after defeats in their last two league matches sandwiching their epic win against Mansfield, the latest coming last Saturday when a first minute goal was enough to see Whitby Town take all three points in tricky conditions on the Yorkshire coast.
Now manager Mark Atkins wants his side to return to winning ways when Stafford Rangers,three places and one point better off than Matlock, come to town on Saturday.
“Stafford’s a big game, one we really need to get three points from, it’s important we get back to winning ways especially at home” said Atkins. “They beat us 1-0 at their place early in the season in a game we deserved something from so we’ll be looking to avenge that defeat.”
The performance at Whitby never threatened to match the heights of both of the Mansfield games and the manager was not surprised.
“It was a little after the Lord Mayor’s Show” Atkins conceded. “It was a difficult game for us especially after all the effort the lads put in on the previous Saturday and on the Tuesday night. The lads looked tired at training on Thursday night so we left three out who were suffering from stiffness or injury.”
Those three were skipper James Lukic who did not even travel plus Micky Harcourt and Glyn Cotton who were named as substitutes. All are expected to be in line for recalls against Stafford.
Assessing the Whitby game Atkins continued “We gave them their goal which was disappointing and did not really get going in the first half. We huffed and puffed and were better in the second half and perhaps an indication that we eventually deserved a point out of it was that the Whitby goalkeeper was named as man of the match. We didn’t deserve to win though but what happened was probably understandable. Things have gone well recently and the fact that they never gave up was pleasing and I can’t really fault them for what they’ve done over the last six or seven weeks.”
After the Stafford match, the Gladiators head to Gresley on Tuesday night in the Derbyshire Senior Cup. After lifting the trophy at Pride Park in 2010, Matlock have exited the competition at the first time of asking in the previous two seasons to Glapwell and New Mills. Atkins wants to do well in the Senior Cup, but admits his side could have done without the Gresley game being scheduled just four days before the Luton clash.
“It’s a bad time to have this game, it’s a competition we can win,and it’s a great night out for the players and fans if we can make it through to the final as we know but we’ll have to look how we are after Saturday. It may be we’ll have to look after one or two but I think we’re still good enough to get a result.”
A blow for Matlock is that new signing and crowd favourite Massiah McDonald will not only miss the Gresley tie but the Trophy match as well. McDonald picked up his tenth caution of the season in the replay with the Stags to earn a two match ban.
“It’s unfortunate but he’s got ten bookings and needs to be a bit careful” Atkins warned. “Some of them have come from his desire to tackle back in trying to win the ball but one or two have been for dissent and the booking against Mansfield was a needless and costly one for he now misses the biggest game of the season.”
Another striker,Liam Wilkin, has moved to Ossett Albion, making a scoring debut for them in their 6-1 home defeat to Ramsbottom United in the Evo-Stik NPL First Division North last weekend. Wilkin looked a bright prospect when he arrived from Winterton Rangers towards the end of last term but bruised ribs and lungs forced him out of the team. He went on loan to Retford United once the injury healed earlier this season before being named on the substitutes bench in a couple of matches but not making it on to the pitch.
“I’d sorted Liam a loan deal out to another club” Atkins explained. “Ossett had put in seven days notice andhe said he wanted to go and play for Ossett so that’s something we couldn’t help.”