the npl

Weekly News | 23.9.20

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Weekly News | 23.9.20

Paul Phillips and the Matlock supporters were in a far happier mood on Tuesday after the Gladiators progressed through their banana skin of an FA Cup tie at Quorn.

Just three days earlier Matlock had played poorly at Bamber Bridge to lose their opening day league fixture by the only goal of the game, not extending the home goalkeeper until the game had entered stoppage time.

A change in formation and intent may have contributed to the improvement on Tuesday when Matlock went for a 3-5-2 shape, with captain Liam Hughes, who scored both Matlock goals, benefitting from having a partner in attack, Phillips starting with Andre Johnson before Osebi Abadaki came on for the final thirty odd minutes.

Looking back at the Bamber Bridge loss, Phillips acknowledged that he should take as much responsibility as the players for what had happened.

“The players can’t shoulder all the blame for the performance, I have to take responsibility for some of it” he conceded.

“We had no-one around Liam Hughes having lost Callum Chippendale in the pre-season games and what we did plainly didn’t work on Saturday, so we altered our shape for the Quorn game, we had more pace going forward. If I’ve got a gripe we should have taken more of our chances but at least we were creating them. But it’s a new group of players and I’ve got to be pleased by another clean sheet, that’s six in eleven games now. I think it’s important we build from the back, last season no disrespect to the players that were here, but I don’t think we kept six clean sheets all season!”

Phillips had particular praise for goalkeeper Shaun Rowley and Hughes who scored his first competitive goals in a Matlock shirt..

“Shaun’s been excellent, he’s come in and taken to it like a duck to water. We should count our blessings that we have such a competent lad to come in and push Jon Stewart who’ll have a fight on his hands to get his place back. I’m totally made up for Hughesy, he’s been brilliant in what he’s done, a breath of fresh air both on and off the pitch. His second goal was superb, first touch off his chest, rolled his man and put it in the bottom corner. We’ve got to play to his strengths, on Saturday we didn’t do that. He was top draw and set the platform for the whole team.”

So will Phillips be looking for that striking partner for Hughes in the transfer market?,

“We’ve got to play with two forwards and I still think we need that man who’s going to contribute twenty goals but I’m not rushing into this. The opportunity’s there for those already at the club to out their name on the shirt. But with what’s happening in the Conference there might be players become available from the league above and I want to make sure we get the right man

The draw for the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round takes place on Friday lunchtime by when Matlock will firmly have their sights set on trying to gain their first win of the league season.

They have two successive home matches with Stafford Rangers in town on Saturday afternoon with Basford United the visitors to the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday night.

“I was very down last Saturday, I fully expected us to bring home three points” admitted Phillips.

“It just goes to show you can’t take things for granted. We’ll have a go at Stafford who’ll be a good, organised team and will try and play football in the right way under Jody Banim. I’s like to make our ground a fortress, when I’ve done well at Ashton we’ve won the majority of games at home and managed

to pick up a fair percentage of points away. You tend to get strange results early on in the season and I think it’ll be especially the case this season. The Stafford and Basford games will be two different challenges but if we show the same appetite as tonight that’s seen us score two goals, fight hard and keep the ball out of our net then we’ll be alright.”

Spectators at both games can pay at the turnstiles as normal with Matlock not allocating tickets in advance for either fixture.

Although fans cannot enter stadiums at Football League level following the Government’s announcement on Tuesday, as things stand, they can still attend non league matches where clubs like Matlock have worked hard to follow government guidelines in relation to such things as social distancing and appropriate signage at the Proctor Cars Stadium.

News emerged on Monday morning that a Bamber Bridge player had tested positive for Covid-19 after last weekend’s game against Matlock. Bamber Bridge now cannot play football for a period of fourteen days.

But after taking advice from the NPL, Matlock can continue to play.their games after there was an initial query of whether they could play their FA Cup tie on Tuesday.

“We were saddened to hear the news about the Bamber Bridge player who we understand is feeling well and we wish him and Bamber Bridge all the best for a quick return to playing. We’re relieved that we’re able to play our games and are looking forward to welcoming all of our supporters to the Stafford game on Saturday and the match with Basford on Tuesday when again, all measures that need to be taken will be in place to allow fans to enjoy the game in a safe manner” said a Matlock spokesman.

Meanwhile the home friendly with Chesterfield which was called off last week after a senior member of the Spireites backroom staff tested positive for Covid 19 will not take place. The schedules of both clubs means that a date cannot currently be found. Fans who purchased tickets from the club shop can gain a refund by visiting the shop on Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday morning between 9 and 12 or between 1 and 5 pm during the Stafford Rangers game. Those who purchased online tickets will be automatically reimbursed.

Matlock’s youngsters are set to play in the FA Youth Cup tonight (Thursday) away at Kirby Muxloe..

Ian Richardson