THE PREVIEW | MTFC Vs Whitby Town - Pitching In NPL - 13.8.22
Matlock Town host Whitby Town on Saturday afternoon as the 2022/23 Northern Premier League Premier Division campaign finally gets under way.
The Gladiators have lost their last two NPL Premier Division opening day games and manager Paul Phillips will be very keen to make sure that record doesn't stretch to another year.
The Derbyshire outfit lost in the NPL Premier Division play-off semi-final last season to eventual play-off winners Scarborough Athletic. There's no question that the team's aim for the 2022/23 campaign is to get over that final hurdle and secure promotion this time around.
Whitby Town finished in seventh position last season in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. They were five points behind a play-offs spot.
Whitby's pre-season campaign finished with four wins, two draws and one defeat. That defeat came in their final pre-season friendly - a surprise 4-1 loss away at Brighouse Town last weekend.
The club were founded in 1880 and are affectionately known as the Seasiders. They play their home games at The Towbar Express Stadium At The Turnbull Ground within the town of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coastline. The stadium can hold up to 3,500 spectators and has a seated capacity of 505. One has an excellent view right at the top of their main stand: to the left, you have the sea just a short distance from the stadium; while to the right, you have an excellent view of the North Yorkshire Moors.
The Seasiders joint managers are Lee Bullock and Nathan Haslam. In his playing career, Bullock played for the likes of Hartlepool United and Bradford City before ending his playing career in non-league with the Seasiders. Haslam has previously managed Marske United and Whitley Bay.
The most recent trophy Whitby lifted was back in the 2016-17 campaign when they won the North Riding Senior Cup. The Seasiders won the FA Vase in the 1996-97 season and won the NPL First Division league title in the season afterwards.
Their star striker from last season, Jacob Hazel, left Whitby Town in May to join National League North outfit Darlington for an undisclosed fee. Hazel finished last season as the top goal scorer overall in the NPL Premier Division with 25 goals.
One to Watch
26 year-old striker Bradley Fewster will be a key player to look out for on Saturday afternoon.
Fewster joined Whitby Town in February 2019 from Blyth Spartans. He started his playing career at Middlesbrough where he went on to have loan spells at Preston North End, York City and Hartlepool United. While playing with the Minstermen, Fewster won the League Two Player of the Month award for February in the 2015/16 season.
Bradley has also represented England at U16, U17, U18 and U19 levels.
Fewster scored eight goals for the Seasiders last season in the NPL Premier Division.
A whole host of players could make their competitive debuts for the club. They are: Jim Pollard, Joseph Ferguson, Sean Higgins, Jordan Barnett, Leigh Whelan, Remi Efunnuga, Simon Lenighan, Aaron Opoku, Jake Day, Kallan Murphy and Reon Potts.
Jorome Slew, Nico DeGirolamo and Sam Ogden could all be in line to make their second debuts for the Gladiators.
These two sides last played each other on an incredibly cold and windy afternoon last season in February.
The NPL Premier Division game ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw as both teams had to battle extremely hard in awful weather conditions at Whitby's ground.
The hosts took the lead after only seven minutes when Lewis Hawkins scored from close range. Matlock equalised in the 21st minute thanks to a converted penalty from Alex Byrne. Whitby regained the lead two minutes before half-time thanks to Jacob Hazel but the Gladiators salvaged a deserved late equaliser to salvage a point when Liam Hughes scored in the 83rd minute.
A decent crowd of 532 braved the atrocious weather conditions to watch the game.