After ending high flying Worksop Town’s unbeaten run at the thirteenth game, Matlock face a different challenge when they travel to Grantham on Saturday.

While the Tigers were bang in form, Grantham are stuck in a terrible sequence which has seen them slip from being play-off outsiders to being on the cusp of the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division relegation zone.

Since beating Blyth Spartans at the South Kesteven Stadium on November 9, the Gingerbreads have not tasted victory in the league, collecting just four points from nine matches. A 5-0 home defeat to Nantwich Town on the Saturday before Christmas saw the sacking of their joint managers Ian Robinson and former Matlock defender Gary Sucharewycz.

The men Robinson and Sucharewycz replaced, Jimmy Albans and Wayne Hallcro, are now back at the helm.

Gladiators boss Mark Atkins, who will be without strikers Shaun Tuton and Danny Holland through suspension, believes his 13th placed Matlock side will face a tough tie on the open Grantham pitch which is akin to an athletics stadium with the running track encircling the arena.

“I expected Grantham to have a good season particularly with the money I was told they were offering players during the summer. They have some good players there so again we’ll need to be on our toes and show the same kind of commitment and desire which saw us through the Worksop game” said Atkins. “On their day Grantham can give anyone a very difficult afternoon and we must be prepared for them.”

Matlock ought not to take Grantham lightly, particularly having within the last six weeks been beaten at the two clubs immediately behind the fifth from bottom Gingerbreads in Witton Albion and Stocksbridge Park Steels.

Tuton would probably have been fit had it not been for a one game ban after accumulating five yellow cards, having trained on Tuesday night. A hamstring problem would have forced him to miss last Saturday’s scheduled home meeting with Blyth Spartans, which was called off at 9 am due to a waterlogged surface.

Skipper Liam Needham missed Tuesday’s training having been laid low with a virus but he is expected to make tonights (Thursday’s) session and be fit for the weekend.

Atkins believes that it was mainly a good thing that the Blyth match was off.

“I think it helped us a bit” he admitted. “After a tough match against Worksop on the Wednesday, the rain that followed would have made it another very heavy surface and there would have been a lot of very tired legs out there. While we always like to play if we possibly can, not playing didn’t do us any harm. The downside though was that with our very good home record, it would have been nice to try and build on the Worksop performance and try and gain another three points.”

Meanwhile defender and current fans player of the year Adam Yates, who suffered a fractured cheekbone in the Derbyshire Senior Cup defeat at Glossop North End on December 10, was at the Worksop clash with some good news for Matlock supporters.

“Everything’s gone very well and I’m delighted with how things are progressing. I was told not to do any contact work for six weeks but there’s definite light at the end of the tunnel and I’m targeting the Droylsden game on February 1 for a return” said Yates.

Atkins added “Adam’s started the physical no contact work to build his fitness and stamina up again and we hope he feels confident and fit enough to come straight back in if everything’s right.”

Ian Richardson

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