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Weekly News | 18/11/20

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Weekly News | 18/11/20

If the Government give the green light for non elite football to return, and with supporters present, Matlock Town fans are likely to see their side in action next in the FA Trophy at Coleshill Town on a date to be confirmed.

Non league football fans are hoping that the present Covid19 restrictions will be eased when the current Government lockdown is due for review on 2 December and the Pitching In NPL and other associated leagues have been making preparations for a return to action should the Government give them the green light.

All NPL clubs received an update from NPL HQ on Tuesday outlining the arrangements for a restart to the campaign which came to a halt on 5 November.

Clubs are to be allowed a week to get up to speed for a resumption with the first set of games set for week commencing December 7, which in Matlock’s case will be their FA Trophy 1st Round Proper clash at Southern League Division One Central Coleshill Town. Should Matlock be successful in this game, the next round is scheduled for week commencing December 14 and then there is a remarkably short break until the third round proper which has been set for Saturday 19 December.

It may be therefore that the Gladiators will play just one more league game before Christmas with Lancaster City due at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Saturday 12 December.

The delay so far will mean that the NPL season is extended with the final league matches taking place on Saturday 22 May, the play off semi finals being set for the following midweek and the play off final taking place on Monday 31 May. The League also say that in their discussions with the other Step 3 and Step 4 leagues that the current spectator limits of 600 and 400 respectively must be kept in place and the FA are currently discussing this matter with the DCMS.

Matlock boss Paul Phillips is keen for NPL football to return.

“Having no football to look forward to on a Saturday and some midweeks is doing everyone’s head in isn’t it, we’re keen to get back playing as we had momentum before the lockdown. Our lads have been working hard to keep their fitness levels up on their own during the break, we just hope now that we can get back playing in December. The Premiership and EFL clubs wouldn’t take kindly to just a week of training before a return but at our level we have to be realistic. There’s time constraints with the amount of games we have to play so we’ll get on with it and hope we can carry on from where we left off before the break. We’ll go into the Coleshill game blind which isn’t the way we normally do things but we’ll prepare the best we can and hope to get through.”

Matlock are as many as three games behind some of their NPL rivals already and a run in the Trophy is likely to cause a backlog but Phillips says Matlock must be ready for that scenario.

“If we progress like I hope we will then here’s going to be a backlog with the league games so we need to ensure that we’ve got that covered in terms of our squad” said Phillips who .added that two new recruits , an attacking midfielder and a forward, both with good pedigree are likely to be in place should games resume in early December.

Phillips released midfielder Andy Bond last Friday in time for the 34 years old Bond to make his debut for AFC Telford in their National League North victory at Darlington last Saturday.

Bond arrived at Matlock with an impressive cv on the eve of the NPL opener at Bamber Bridge, but was unable to force his way into an impressive and competitive Matlock midfield. He made just one start and two substitute appearances during his short stay with Matlock.

Phillips praised the Gladiators midfield for their efforts so far this season as Alex Byrne, Spencer Harris, Mark Lees and Declan Walker have all been in impressive form.

“On and off the pitch the lads in midfield have done all we’ve asked of them, they’ve embraced what they’ve had to do and they’ve done ever so well. Bondy unfortunately didn’t buy into it so he’s moved on to Telford, the lads we have are competitive, they show desire and are team players, for them it’s all about getting the three points or getting through to the next round of the cup rather than it being about them.”

Lees drew special prise from Phillips who has managed him before at Ashton United and Stalybridge Celtic.

“I’ve been with Mark before and you know what you’re going to get from him, a lot of his work can go unnoticed by the fans but he’s the platform for the lads defensive wise leaving the chance for the other lads to do their stuff. If you remember at Bamber Bridge we didn’t have that defensive midfielder and we suffered for it, we’ve seen the difference since, he’s been brilliant for us in there.”

IAN RICHARDSON