Manager Mark Hume will have the prayer mat out as he looks over his injury hit squad ahead of Matlock’s most important match of the season so far on Saturday.

The Gladiators travel to second in the table Nantwich Town in the First Round Proper of the FA Trophy as Derbyshire’s sole survivors in the competition, fresh in the knowledge that victory would give them a good chance of facing one of the Conference National big boys in Round Two.

Prize money of £5000 is at stake this weekend, but there is the potential of more to come should they win and draw a Tranmere or a Grimsby.

Hume must be cursing his ill fortune with goalkeeper George Willis (foot), defenders Micky Harcourt (ankle) and Laurie Wilson (calf), midfielder Liam Gaughan (hamstring), and strikers Danny Holland (ankle) and Niall McManus (calf) all failing to make the starting line up in Tuesday’s 4-2 Derbyshire Senior Cup defeat at Belper. To add to his problems, defender Harry Coates has been called back by parent club Harrogate Town, and while striker Alex Peterson was given a full debut in midweek, albeit as an emergency central defender, he cannot face the Dabbers as he is cup tied.

“I can’t say at present how many will be ready in time for Nantwich” a frustrated Hume said in midweek. “One thing is for sure, had we played any of our injured players on Tuesday we wouldn’t have them for Saturday. It was too much of a risk to play them. and two had absolutely no chance of playing last Tuesday.”

Hume said he would have liked to have played his strongest eleven at Belper in what turned out to be a failed attempt to retain the Derbyshire Senior Cup.

“Ideally if I would have had a full squad available, I’d have played our strongest team with the hope of a good result to carry into the Nantwich tie, but it wasn’t to be.”

Matlock’s defensive problems have been highlighted recently, and although too much cannot be read into the Belper defeat from that perspective, the fact remains that they have conceded ten goals in the four games beforehand.

Given that Nantwich have the best goalscoring record in the Evo-Stik Premier with 58 goals scored in their 22 league matches, Hume is well aware that Matlock cannot be as generous defensively as they have been recently. Three more came in last weekend’s home defeat to Barwell.

“Same old” Hume said. “We started well and then conceded those two poor goals quickly which gave us a mountain to climb. Up until the Daventry game we’d been on a decent unbeaten run and now we’ve got to get one going again. There’s going to be hiccups along the way, that’s the nature of the beast, but it’s the sickening way we do it. I can’t keep making excuses for the defensive errors, we’ll have to bring people in that can do the job defensively. If we are to lose games then we’ve got to lose in a better way if there’s such a thing, that’s not by gifting opposing teams goals.”

In spite of these issues, Hume is upbeat ahead of the Trophy test.

“I’m confident we can keep going in the Trophy, don’t forget we won a difficult game at Shaw Lane and then in the last round we beat one of the best sides in the league in Blyth Spartans so we’re no mugs. We have a game plan, the 2-2 draw there earlier this season is immaterial but at the moment we’re seen as a side who can only play well against the better opposition and while we hope that’s the case on Saturday, in the long term we’ve got to rectify that.”

Certainly Belper were there for the taking as Hume’s men squandered chance after chance to lose their grip on the Senior Cup they won in convincing fashion last term. Even though they conceded four goals, Matlock still should have won through on the chances created.

“It was unbelievable the amount of chances we had even with the number of first teamers out, but we still should have won it and we needed to take them” Hume concluded.

If a replay is required, it will take place at the Autoworld Arena on Tuesday night (7.45pm). Transport is operating to Nantwich on Saturday leaving the Autoworld Arena at 11.30 am, ring Tom Wright on 07850 065968 to book your place.

Ian Richardson

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