the npl

Weekly News | 10.1.23

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Weekly News | 10.1.23

Martin Carruthers says the importance of starting games on the front foot has been emphasised in his first three games in charge.

The matches have brought about a win, a draw and a defeat and with the race for the play-offs intensifying as the league campaign has passed the midway point,

“It’s so important to start games well and get on the front foot. We did that against Belper but then against Gainsborough and last Saturday against Morpeth it was the exact opposite. The game plan is to start well and play in the opponents’ half and that’s something we need to do.”

Matlock’s last game was the controversial 2-2 draw with Morpeth which saw the Gladiators twice come from behind to earn a deserved share of the spoils.

“I thought it was two points dropped, it was hugely disappointing for us. Morpeth hadn’t won for a good while and hadn’t scored in five or six games so it was an opportunity missed. We created some good opportunities from set pieces in the first half but then we concede a sloppy goal and find ourselves 1-0 down at half time. It was great to see Karl Demidh (signed from Quorn) score on his debut, that’s why I’ve brought him to the club. It’s 1-1 and then it looks like there’s only one winner.”

Carruthers admits that discipline in their play cost them dearly.

“We conceded another sloppy goal from a breakaway as we allowed their lad to get in behind us, Jordan Barnett’s sent off for a second booking and we’re down to ten and 2-1 behind from the penalty.”

But he also praised the spirit in the side to come back.

“We showed tremendous character and credit to the lads for getting back to 2-2, again there only looked like being one winner but a poor refereeing decision cost us the chance of three points, I can’t comprehend how he couldn’t give the penalty when Karl was taken out, everyone in the ground could see it was a foul by the goalkeeper. But we must look at everything as a whole, people switching off at crucial moments, most of the goals we’ve conceded while I’ve been here are from counter attacks, we need to concentrate more and be more switched on as a side.”

Carruthers hasn’t had the best of luck with key losses in his midfield since he arrived. Alex Wiles was transferred to Scarborough Athletic just as he was joining Matlock and since then Brad Abbott has suffered a broken leg while Mark Lees, the man Matlock have relied on for preventing teams hitting them on the break, has moved closer to his Ashton-under Lyne home for personal reasons and joined Wythenshawe Town.

“It could be down to midfield being a bit short and it’s an area I’m looking to fill. We’ve brought in quality in goal with Saul Deeney coming in this week and Karl Demidh in attack. I’d like to bring in an experienced quality midfield player but the good ones are tied into contracts at present. My hand’s being forced a little by what’s happened, when I came in I didn’t plan on making a lot of changes for if a team’s in the position that Matlock were in, well placed in and around the play-offs, then there’s no need for it. I’m one for keeping things fluid and settled, I want stability, I’m not one for chopping and changing.”

So the race for a top five spot continues with a trip to Stafford Rangers on Saturday before league leaders and title favourites South Shields visit the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday night (7.45pm). Matlock should have been in action at home to Marine last Tuesday only for their pitch to be declared waterlogged after heavy rainfall.

Twelfth placed Stafford are two points behind the tenth placed Gladiators having played a game more, Matlock currently trailing fifth in the table Bamber Bridge by three points having played a game fewer than the Preston club.

Stafford threw away a three goal lead at home to Gainsborough last Saturday as Trinity scored four times in the final quarter of the game to beat Rangers, so Stafford should be all out to put that result behind them against Matlock.

“To be honest I couldn’t believe the score when Stafford had been three goals up, so I’m expecting they’re going to have a massive point to prove. We’ll work hard in training and hopefully we’ll have learned our lessons from the last two games and we can come home with a decent result. We’re not far outside the play-offs and a win might take us into the top five. Every game is huge now, we need a run of results now to cement ourselves in those play-off places.”

Carruthers says he is surprised South Shields are still in the Northern Premier League.

“I can’t believe they’re still in this division, they’re full time and have a great manager in Kevin Phillips so I’m hoping we can do what we’re good at, we can raise our game and get a result. There’s no reason why we can’t but the players have got to step up and produce the goods.”

Matlock will be without the suspended Jordan Barnett and goalkeeper Jim Pollard at Stafford. Saul Deeney, signed this week from Ilkeston Town will take Pollard’s place while Barnett’s replacement isn’t clear. The Gladiators also boosted their squad in the last week with the acquisition of a new goalkeeper Dylan Hough who was part of their youth set up previously plus forward Ben Henderson from Eastwood Community. Henderson was also with the former Gladiators Academy, while midfielder Harrison Taylor’s signing finally went through on Monday, Taylor is at Nottingham Trent University and is training at Notts County having spent last season at Wisbech Town.

Carruthers hailed the Fans Forum held in the Shorts Lounge on Monday night as a huge success.

“I thought it was superb. I thoroughly enjoyed it, the Chairman Jay spoke very well and it was good to see the football club being so transparent. It was great to hear what the fans thought and all in all I thought it was a very positive session .”

Matlock’s trip to Stalybridge Celtic, postponed through the frost on December 17 now has a new date. The match will take place at Bower Fold on Tuesday 21 February, kick off 7.45 pm.

Ian Richardson