Home definitely hasn’t been where the heart is for Matlock Town in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division this season.

Considering they have beaten two Blue Square Conference sides in Northern Division Stalybridge Celtic and Premier Division plus Football League hopefuls Mansfield Town in the F A Trophy, it is difficult to comprehend that six visiting sides have already won at the Reynolds Stadium in domestic fare, with the Gladiators winning just twice.

So when 19th placed Grantham Town come for a six pointer on Saturday,(the Gingerbreads are two places lower and a point behind Matlock but having played four more games), the Gladiators will be wanting to make it a first of the season by winning for the first time at home in the league on a Saturday. Both of their other home wins, against Frickley 3-1 and 1-0 versus Chorley,were on a Tuesday night.

It represents a turnaround from last term when Matlock’s home form was sound but their away form was awful. After wins at Frickley and Burscough by the start of September, Town failed to fashion another away league win. Yet this time around it has been their away results which have kept them just clear of peril. Five wins and a draw out of twelve matches has seen them pick up twice as many points away than at home.

Manager Mark Atkins agreed that the home statistics make for painful reading.

“Our home form has been very disappointing, we’ve lost too many games. Some performances have been okay but in games against Stafford and Blyth here, sending offs have cost us.”

Atkins spoke of his desire to improve on home territory.

“Our away form hasn’t generally been bad at all and has kept us going but I really want to get things right here at Matlock. We really should have won our last home game against Buxton on New Years Day when I thought we passed the ball about well and put in a good performance so hopefully we can take that into the Grantham game. It’ll be tough on Saturday but we’ve got to be looking for three points and turn in another good performance for it’s a chance for us to pull away from the others at the bottom.”

Two former Matlock defenders will be part of the visiting side with Gary Sucharewycz forming one half of the Grantham management team with Ian Robinson, plus the recently signed Tommy Hannigan. Sucharewycz had two spells at matlock, in the late 1990’s and early noughties, while Hannigan was with Matlock for part of the 2008/09 campaign.

Matlock would have beaten Buxton if they had taken just one of three or four good chances, and that was pretty much the case up at Blyth last weekend, even after conceding two soft goals. An own goal from Spartans’ Richie Slaughter on 51 minutes cancelled out a 25th minute header from Wayne Buchanan, but a 65th minute winner, also an own goal, gave the hosts all three points. Stretching Town skipper James Lukic could only turn a low teasing cross from Robbie Dale past Jon Kennedy, although Dale did look offside in the build-up.

Particularly galling for Atkins and the fans was the concession of a first goal from a header by a central defender for the third match in a row.

“We started very well but didn’t take our chances” said Atkins. “Then they score from just about their first attack.A set piece has again cost us and for their second goal we should have dealt with the situation far better although their lad who crossed it in was probably offside. The set piece thing is our achilles heel and very worrying, people have men to pick up and have to be mentally and physically stronger and say my man isn’t going to score.”

Both the first and reserve teams mixed and matched in a training exercise on Tuesday to give some players extra fitness. The Gladiators might be boosted with the return of midfielder Gareth Davies if he comes through training on Thursday following two games out with an ankle injury. Defender Adam Yates (hip) and top scorer Lewis McMahon (stiff neck and back) will need checks ahead of the Grantham clash. Also added to the squad should be winger Ben Hunter who commences a second spell at matlock after leaving for North Ferriby a year ago.

As Hunter came in, midfielder Glyn Cotton went through the exit door to Belper.

“I’ve had my eye on Ben’s situation for two or three weeks now, we know what he’s about, he’s done well for Ferriby but has been frozen out a bit with all the players they’ve been signing. I’m sure he’ll be an asset for us and offer us something positive from the left wing. Glyn wanted a move so it wasn’t fair to involve him against Buxton over players who want to stay with us. He’s got his move to Belper and we move on.”

Matlock welcome East Midlands Counties League outfit Borrowash Victoria to the Reynolds Stadium on Tuesday night in the last eight of the Derbyshire Senior Cup.

“It’s an important game for us and one we won’t be taking lightly” said Atkins. The Vics surprisingly knocked out Evo-Stik NPL First Division North promotion chasers New Mills in the last round.

Meanwhile a week later Matlock will also be at home in a cup competition with First Division South Carlton Town the visitors in the Doodson Sports League Cup. The Millers beat First Division North visitors Ossett Town 2-1 in Nottingham on Wednesday night. In between the two cup ties the Blues travel to Hednesford Town in the league on Saturday week.

Ian Richardson.

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