Matlock Town did their survival hopes a lot of good over Easter with four out of six points gained from two tough looking games.

On Saturday they produced probably their best all round display of the season in a 3-1 victory at Barwell and then followed that up with a point from a gutsy display as they held local rivals Buxton to a scoreless draw at the Autoworld Arena, having been reduced to ten men in the 41st minute when Nicky Travis was sent off for a high challenge on Jamie Green. Incidentally this was the Gladiators first red card of the season.

But the battle for safety remains as tight and as intriguing as ever.

Definitely down are Belper Town and Trafford but two more teams will join them, unless there are any reprieves granted by clubs’ misfortunes elsewhere in the pyramid.

Any two of ten clubs , stretching as far as thirteenth placed Stourbridge could conceivably still go down, but realistically it seems that the list is reduced to any team down from Whitby Town in fifteenth spot.

So quite clearly despite a favourable Easter, the seventeenth placed Gladiators are not out of the woods yet, but the Easter form has increased optimism at the Autoworld Arena that Town fans will be watching top flight NPL football next term.

Manager Mark Hume was a much happier man after Monday as his team put right the wrongs of the error ridden Curzon Ashton defeat.

“It was a great performance at Barwell, a good team performance, not many sides have got points there. We scored some great goals and also defended well. We also matched them on the physical side and showed we weren’t going to be a pushover, we caught them out with our pace and Niall McManus, Otis Khan and Jamie McDonagh were a different class going forward” said Hume.

An obvious talking point was the fantastic thirty yard volley from McDonagh for Matlock’s third goal early in the second half, after attempting an audacious cheeky reverse instep effort which rebounded off the bar in the opening forty five minutes.

“That’s a natural talent to be able to strike a shot like that, it was fantastic and he’ll be a top striker” Hume added.

Reflecting on the stalemate with Buxton, Hume was again satisfied.

“I thought we were the better side in the first half and their keeper’s made a fantastic save from Niall McManus’ header. It was unfortunate to lose Trav through a red card, there was no intent to hurt their player on his part and I think a yellow card could have been sufficient but we put in an honest shift after that and didn’t let the sending off affect us. More importantly over the two games we cut out the mistakes that had killed us in other matches recently and that was important. We’ll take four out of six points from those two games.”

Hume and his troops will have to watch the weekend action from afar as on Saturday the Gladiators are without a game but they are back in action on Tuesday night when they make the long trek up the A1 to visit Blyth Spartans.

This will be their second attempt at completing the fixture with the referee calling the game off just over an hour before kick off on a Saturday afternoon visit in December.

Matlock have just three league games left now with a home meeting with King’s Lynn Town on Saturday week before they travel to Ramsbottom in their final fixture on April 25.

The sooner Matlock can reach safety the better and they can then approach the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final against Gresley at the Proact Stadium in Chesterfield on Monday April 27 in good heart.

“It’ll be a tough one up at Blyth but I believe we can go there and get a favourable result” said Hume. “We need to carry on the form shown in our last two games, if we can do that, we stand every chance of doing well.”

Ian Richardson

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