Joint boss Craig Hopkins is still focused on a play off place for his Matlock Town side, despite a faltering run which has seen them pick up only two points from the last twelve on offer.

Tuesday evening’s 0-0 draw at home to Coalville Town followed a 5-3 defeat at play off rivals Stourbridge at the weekend and Matlock now lie in seventh spot but still in contention to finish in the top five come the end of the season.

But the Gladiators must bounce out of this run and rediscover their mojo quickly if they are to extend their league season. They have eleven league games left , starting with Saturday’s home clash against Stafford Rangers and Hopkins and fellow joint boss Glenn Kirkwood have set their players a challenge.

“Our mini-season starts on Saturday, we’ll need probably eight wins from those games to make the play-offs although seven may be enough depending on other results. We’re in with a chance, it’ll be difficult admittedly but it’s also do-able, we’re more than capable of going on a run.”

Matlock have mostly stuttered their way through their last four games and fans will be hoping it i just a hiccup in what has been a memorable season so far. The team’s performances have understandably heightened expectations after a number of at best mediocre campaigns and it may be that a degree of reality is needed.

While the Gladiators management team are rightly continuing to push their players for one big final effort, if you would have offered Matlock’s fans a seventh in the table league position, plus outstanding performances in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy, plus a Derbyshire Senior Cup Final appearance, they would undoubtedly of bitten your hand off.

Recent results and performances suggest they have become victims of their own success.

“The lads have played 52/53 games they have been incredible, many are only young not used to it with full time jobs” Hopkins explained. “They’ve all worked so hard from mid-June when we started training until now and now they’re in a position where they’re in with a chance of a play off place. We’ll rest up now for Saturday and we’ll be doing our best as we have all season to get the win, Then with no midweek game next week it;s the ideal chance for the lads to rest up, relax and be ready for the game at Ashton at the weekend.”

Stafford are a hard working and robust side who comfortably beat Town 2-0 on their home ground in December.

“Stafford are a good side and would probably be up there challenging for the play offs themselves had they made a better start to the season” Hopkins warned. “We know what to expect from them and we must be ready for as I’ve said our mini season gets under way from this point on.”

Niall McManus will miss the Stafford game through suspension after being sent off for two bookable offences at Stourbridge which Hopkins described as “a funny game”. The Glassboys led 4-3 after an amazing first half before scoring the only goal after half time to clinch victory.

“You normally get one goal from thirty odd yards against you in a season, not two in ten minutes. The pleasing aspect was that we kept coming back, at 70 mins and the score at 4-3 (as it was at half-time), we were on top and had the pressure but just couldn’t get the equaliser. We battled, we fought but then their fifth goal and the sending off knocked the stuffing out of us. We weren’t at all happy with the officials, we didn’t appear to get any decisions in the game at all and it made it very difficult for us as every one seemed to go their (Stourbridge’s) way and it led to us becoming increasingly frustrated as the game went Marcus Dinanaga got another coupleof goals, he kept on getting behind their defence and was a threat all afternoon.”

It was frustration again on Tuesday against Coalville.

“We started really well at a tempo, for ten to fifteen minutes we played some good football but again needed to stick a chance away. We had nearly all of the play in the second half, we had three or four half chances which came from pressure more than anything else. There was no finishing touch, we’ve played better and lost, we’ve played worse and won, it’s something you have to accept.”

Hopkins added there may be a new signing before the Stafford game and Jamie Yates may be added to the squad after gaining valuable game time with AFC Mansfield.

IAN RICHARDSON

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