Boss Mark Atkins was far from happy with his side on Tuesday night in spite of their 2-1 pre season friendly win at Mickleover Sports.

First half goals from Lewis McMahon and Anthony Griffiths-Junior had the Gladiators in the driving seat before Micky Harcourt and former Gladiator Danny Davidson were sent off after an ugly mass brawl with half an hour gone. Another former Town striker Nathan Benger scored what proved to be only a consolation early in the second period after which Matlock had to defend for long periods.

“I’ve told them how I feel and on tonight’s performance they’ve most certainly got to do better as a team” said Atkins who questioned his players’ mindset.

“I didn’t like their attitude, they turned up thinking this is just another game and it’s something you can’t do at any time, whether it be pre season or a competitive fixture. Defensively we’ve conceded an atrocious goal and we haven’t kept a clean sheet yet in pre-season so there’s plenty we need to work at.”

Atkins was hoping to use Tuesday night to give most outfield players just forty five minutes ahead of tonight’s (Thursday’s) visit by Leicester City under 21’s and Saturday’s final pre season outing at Eastwood Town.

“The sendings off spoiled the game although the referee had no choice with either. Micky was sent off twice last season and it’s happened again and he’s got to learn to stay on the pitch. We didn’t want to risk David Haggerty with a tight calf so we had to do things differently from the way we wanted to. We started well to go 2-0 up, then from our point of view it was a non entity, the only thing we got from it was a fitness exercise. I’d started to have firm plans of the side to field in the first league game but the Mickleover game might see me have a change of mind.”

Fortunately Harcourt’s dismissal should not prove to be too costly meaning he will sit out just the Leicester game, but if one full back incurred Atkins wrath, another has been heaped with praise.

Joe Leesley has slotted in on the left in a surprise move by Atkins which has so far come off a treat.

“Joe’s been great and has been our best player so far” Atkins revealed. “It’s something I’ve thought about over the summer as last year as a target man up front he was being bullied a bit too much by centre halves which at his age he will be. He played at left back for twenty minutes in a friendly last season and looked decent, it was where he used to play as a youngster. He’s listened well and has tremendous energy levels and we’re very pleased with him.”

Atkins admits to being concerned with Matlock’s goal threat. With last season’s top scorer Lewis McMahon banned for the opening four matches, and close season recruit Danny Holland not yet firing on all cylinders, Atkins will be hoping everything’s all right on the night.”

“Not scoring that many is a little worry but some people come to life when things get under way properly,so as long as the goals go in when it matters, that’s alright by me.”

Matlock’s scheduled home game with Blyth Spartans on Saturday August 31 has been switched to Blyth’s Croft Park due to cricket taking place at Causeway Lane that day. In a reversal of the fixtures, Blyth will come to the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday November 16.

IAN RICHARDSON

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