Matlock boss Mark Atkins takes his team to a struggling club for the second successive Saturday this weekend, but reckons that opponents Stafford Rangers are in a false position.

The Marston Road club have made a surprisingly slow start to the campaign which led to them parting company with manager Greg Clowes after losing their opening five matches. And even though they have just the solitary league victory -and a good one at that at home to FC United of Manchester- now new boss Andy Mutch is in charge, they remain in second bottom position with just five points from eleven games.

“It’s been tough for us against Stafford in the last two seasons and although things have not gone well for Stafford so far this term I expect them to get out of it” said Atkins. “We can’t and mustn’t take them lightly for they have players well used to this level and the one above and with a new manager in charge they’ll be desperate to start picking up some good results.”

The first part of a double header against the bottom two came last weekend when Matlock were easy 4-1 winners at Droylsden as a brace of penalties from Darryl Thomas was added to by substitute Corey Gregory and Danny Holland.

“I thought that’s how things would turn out but it’s still difficult to go to a place like that as you don’t want to be the first team to be beaten by them” Atkins continued. “But I thought we handled the situation very well and really we ought to have been two or three up in the first five minutes or so. Credit to Droylsden, they kept on playing but we created numerous chances and I thought the lads did really well, everyone did their jobs.”

Matlock go to Stafford in seventh place, level on points with fifth placed Ilkeston in what is currently a very tight division with just three points separating Ilkeston from Worksop Town in sixteenth. So a win on Saturday and a continuation of their sound home form when Barwell come to town on Wednesday will do the Gladiators a world of good.

“I don’t know much about Barwell but we’ll have them watched on Saturday and take things from there. Our home form’s been good and we want to carry that on. We’ve looked to be positive at home and in pre season we worked on another system we could switch to if the one we’d been playing wasn’t working.

David Haggerty , Lewis McMahon (both ankle), Darryl Thomas (hamstring) and Danny Holland and Micky Harcourt (both groin) all had treatment on Tuesday night and will undergo more care on Thursday with Atkins expecting most of them to make it on Saturday with Harcourt and McMahon the most doubtful. Joe Leesley will be out through suspension so Lee Featherstone could make his first appearance of the campaign.

Meanwhile Gareth Davies moved out of The Reynolds Stadium last Friday and made his debut for Belper Town in the Nailers’ 2-0 home win over Loughborough Dynamo in the FA Trophy last weekend.

Atkins said it was a good move for everyone.

“Gareth did a very good job for me and the club, I’ve been very pleased with him but I think it was time for him to move on. We were going in a different direction in midfield, and obviously Gareth wanted to play regularly, something I could’t guarantee him. I think Belper have got themselves a really good player.”

A replacement for Davies could be available for the weekend but the unnamed player requires international clearance first.

IAN RICHARDSON

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