the npl

Weekly News | 22.2.23

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Weekly News | 22.2.23

Two great away performances at league leaders and title favourites South Shields and at Stalybridge Celtic on Tuesday night have got Martin Carruthers “buzzing”.

Matlock were five minutes away from bringing all three points back from the north east on Saturday when South Shields scored a scrappy equaliser to cancel out a 37th minute strike from Connor Dimiao. Then in midweek Matlock built up a fully deserved three goals lead through Harry WSakefield, Al Byrne and Karl Demidh. They might easily have added more before two late Stalybridge goals brought about a tense finale when they also struck the post and bar in a last ditch move which would have earned them an undeserved point.

“I’m absolutely delighted , these have been two of the best performances versus South Shields and for sixty five minutes at Stalybridge since me and Wayne (Hallcro) came to the club. We created chances against the best side in the league on Saturday and then if we’d got six or even more goals on Tuesday then Stalybridge couldn’t have moaned about it. The enforced changes through injuries didn’t help with Jamie Sharman’s split lip and feeling dizzy meaning we had to slot Saul (Milovanovic) and Zander (Alex Duhameau) in at right and left back for the second half. Full credit to Stalybridge for fighting back , my only disappointment was that we couldn’t keep the clean sheet but overall I’m buzzing with the way we’ve played in two tough away games.”

South Shields are hot favourites for the title which was clearly evident with the way they responded to the half time deficit.

“At half time we could have been two or three goals up. We said at half time the objective was a clean sheet and that we’d probably have to grind it out. We needed that second goal and Jorome Slew’s had a great chance, one which you need to take against a really top side. If you don’t take it you come unstuck but I was really pleased with the way we went toe to toe against the league leaders on their own patch.” Carruthers added.

“we made some great clearances and were unlucky with the mistake from Jim (Pollard) who had made some great saves but that can happen in football.”

One noticeable feature has been the high press policy the Gladiators have made in these two matches. South Shields certainly looked surprised by the approach and were second best in the opening half and it paid dividends on Tuesday, especially with Harry Wakefield’s first goal in Matlock colours after only 4 minutes. A clearance from Celtic custodian Greg Hall hit him flush in the face and rebounded into the net to give the Gladiators the perfect start.

“It was great to see Harry get his first goal and he could have had a hat-trick in that opening twenty minutes. In total we could have scored seven or eight goals. We encourage the players to start on the front foot, to put teams under pressure and establish a foothold in the game early on and the players to their credit are taking all this on board. In the end it was just frustrating to give away the two goals which could have been avoided. We rode our luck in the dying seconds but it would have been a travesty if Stalybridge had got the equaliser. It was a huge three points for us.”

That win saw Matlock rise three places to sixth and they are one of three teams on 49 points although the other two, Marine and Bamber Bridge have a game in hand.

Attention now turns to Saturday’s visit by second placed Hyde United which should attract a sizeable crowd to the Proctor Cars Stadium.

“ We knew we were coming into a tough run of fixtures and the last two results give us a fighting chance going into Saturday. If we can play like we’ve done in the last two games than we can beat anybody. We’ve got to be looking at a win on Saturday and at home to Ashton a week on Saturday to sustain our challenge. We’re entering a crucial time of the season when if you can get three or four wins in the spin it can make all the difference and give you a great chance.”

Carruthers will assess the fitness of some of his players ahead of the Hyde clash. Midfielder Dan Bradley sat out the Stalybridge game with a tight hamstring while the Matlock boss labelled club captain Adam Yates a warrior.

“We rested Yatesy on Tuesday as it was a miracle he got through the South Shields game with his ankle but he did because he’s a warrior. We have to manage him right though and the rest gives him the best chance of being right for Saturday. Saul Deeney’s knee has settled down and we’ll take a look at Jamie Sharman who felt dizzy with the knock to his face which split his lip. On the plus side Robbie McNicholas might be fit for Saturday, if not definitely the following week and Brad Abbott’s only about two weeks away from a return.”

Carruthers paid tribute to the Matlock supporters who turned up in numbers and were loud and proud at both South Shields and Stalybridge.

“It was brilliant to see so many travel to the games and really get behind the players which is really appreciated by us all, long may it continue. Hopefully the last two performances and results will have pleased them and everyone at the club, thank you to each and every one of them.”

Ian Richardson