Matlock manager Mark Atkins is probably as disappointed as the fans as the Gladiators ended their 2012/13 Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division campaign in a lowly seventeenth spot.
The consolation was that they finished a huge twelve points ahead of second bottom Kendal Town who completed their difficult season with three wins on the trot, including a final day 4-1 success against Matlock. Even if the usual four clubs had gone down, there still would have been a comfortable nine points gap.
Atkins though acknowledges that the league displays were not good enough, in contrast to their cup form which saw a tremendous run in the FA Trophy beating Blue Square North Stalybridge Celtic and this season’s Conference Premier champions Mansfield Town, being runners up to Ilkeston in an unlucky last gasp defeat at Chesterfield and reaching the Doodson League Cup semi finals.
“It’s been a tough season for a number of reasons. The league position isn’t great, I certainly expected us to finish higher at the start of the season. Injuries have played a big part although I won’t use this as an excuse, while this season we’ve had to keep our eye on the budget more than in previous seasons. Given all that though, I still felt we had enough quality to finish further up the table.”
So, given his time over again, would the Town supremo have done anything differently?
“I think we all know the answer to that” he replied. “I wouldn’t have signed Lee Ellington and I take full responsibility for that. It’s the first time in my non league career as a player, manager or assistant manager that I’ve known anyone in the game just for the money. Lee Ellington came here just for the money, the desire to play for this football club just wasn’t there and what it’s done is put pressure on everyone at the club throughout the season.”
32 year old Ellington had been a regular scorer in the Blue Square North, and hopes were high that he could produce the goals on a regular basis for Matlock in the league below. In the event he managed just one competitive goal, a late equaliser in the 3-3 draw at Grantham Town in September, and hasn’t featured in the squad this calendar year.
“In November we offered to cancel his contract so everyone could move on” Atkins explained.
“We also tried to sort out loan moves and had clubs willing to take him to get him playing and more importantly help with our budget, but he just wouldn’t do it. Sometimes you hope that a player just wants to play football but he was interested in just the money. He was a great lad when he was with me at Stalybridge and I spoke to people before signing him who told me he was fit, not missing games and had been scoring in the league above. It’s a big shame.”
Quite clearly the expenditure on Ellington could have been used elsewhere. Atkins praised the attitude of his other players who absorbed a wage cut towards the end of the campaign.
“The players showed a fantastic attitude to stay here given the budget cuts and I have to say that the fans and people behind the scenes have also been tremendous. When we had the Trophy run, the support was absolutely tremendous and in the last couple of months people have come up to me and have told me they appreciate what we’ve been trying to do in difficult circumstances. Everyone wants Matlock Town to succeed but the most important thing is that there will still be a Matlock Town for people to watch and support, so I hope this backing will continue to be there.”
On the injuries which have blighted virtually the whole campaign, Atkins said the most frustrating aspect was that Matlock’s contract players seemed to suffer more than most.
“I refuse to use the injuries as an excuse but it’s worth pointing out that the worse thing about all this is that it’s been the contract players who have mostly been struck down and you just can’t go out and get someone as good like you can do with the non contract lads. Again this has an effect on the budget. When we’ve had one back we’ve seemed to go and lose another two and we also seemed to have been picking up the injuries more often than not during the first half of games.”
On a more positive note Atkins said that the performances against Mansfield showed just what his team are capable of, but he agreed that performances of this calibre were few and far between.
“Those games highlighted that the ability was there and the application. We have game plans for every game and in those two matches against Mansfield, the lads did what was asked of them to the letter. When they put these plans into practice, it just shows what they can do. But there wasn’t enough consistency, and that I suppose is why players are playing at this level.”
Matlock hold their Presentation Evening in the Social Club on Friday night. Doors open at 7pm , admission is free and there will be a disco and buffet .