the npl

Weekly News | 24.11.21

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Weekly News | 24.11.21

It’s getting tight at the top of the Pitching In NPL Premier Division with Matlock still top of the pile.

But they lead the way only on a goal difference of 2 after their scoreless draw at Morpeth last Saturday. On the same day South Shields were 3-1 winners at home to Gainsborough Trinity to draw level on points with the Gladiators.

Buxton were expected to knock Paul Phillips’ men off their perch this week, but for Matlock came the unexpected bonus of their rivals up the A6 dropping five points in their two matches. They lost for the first time in the league this season, 1-0 at Lancaster City on Saturday. Then on Tuesday night they looked all set to replace Matlock in pole position as they led in their home clash with Nantwich Town but the Dabbers grabbed a 90th minute equaliser to keep Buxton in third spot, a point behind Matlock and South Shields with a game in hand. Bamber Bridge are the surprise package, a further point behind the Bucks in fourth.

Matlock are the only one of the top four not in league action this weekend so the chances are that they will lose the league leadership while they tackle NPL Division One East league leaders Marske United in the FA Trophy at the Proctor Cars Stadium. Phillips says it is something Matlock will have to accept and it should spur them on to regain top spot when they return to league action at home to Stafford Rangers on Saturday week.

“It’ll give us the incentive to win our games. Buxton lost at Lancaster where we won comfortably and drew with Nantwich who we beat earlier in the season. They were expected to win both so these results show just how tough this league is. If they or someone else goes top then fair play to them, they’ll be top for a reason but there’s a long way to go .”

Phillips agreed that the 0-0 scoreline at Morpeth was fair.

“We had the better chances, they had the better possession. I’m not making excuses but the astroturf they play on is strange, a ten or fifteen yard pass can easily run out of play and they’d put the sprinklers on beforehand so it was something they were obviously more used to. We weren’t at our best, lacklustre in the final third. They’re much better than they were earlier in the season so I’d have taken a point. The clean sheet was a positive, that’s two now in successive away matches. They didn’t really trouble us apart from one scramble. There’s things we can work on, we didn’t keep the ball well enough that’s why we’ve brought Luke Daly in. 0-0 is always cagey away from home, te problem we had is that we went for the extravagant pass rather than the easy pass.”

Daly was one of three signings made by Phillips in the lead up to the trip to Craik Park. He is a 25 years old midfielder who had ten years experience at Manchester United and three at Burnley in his younger years. In non league he has been at Droylsden before moving to South Shields during the null and void 2019/20 season. Attacking midfielder Luke Hall has come in from Sheffield having been on dual registration with Guiseley while goalkeeper Alfie Roberts has joined on a youth loan from Derby County following the finger injury sustained by Shaun Rowley.

“It takes time for lads to acclimatise but Luke Daly will come into his own when we need to break teams down, he’s brave on the ball and can find that vital pass” Phillips added.

With Jesurun Uchegbulam unavailable due to personal reasons, Ross Hannah came back from a four game ban to play alongside Liam Hughes in attack.

“Understandably the sharpness wasn’t there in Ross’ game but he did well although it’ll probably take him two or three games to get back to full speed. He had a couple of chances that wouldn’t come down for him but it’ll be good to get him back in the groove.”

The Town boss says he is expecting a really tough clash with Marske on Saturday, the Seasiders having reached the summit of the East Division on Tuesday. The Gladiators were represented in the crowd in Marske’s 5-0 win at Bridlington Town .

“They’re a very good team, strong and powerful with some good players such as Adam Boyes, Matty Tymon and Dale Hopson who’ve played in the NPL Premier and the league above. They’ve got their recruitment right, It’ll be a tough task. We need to be bang at it and show the conviction and attitude that’s put us at the top of our division.”

New recruit Luke Hall is ineligible for the tie having played for Sheffield in a previous round while currently injured Jamie Cooke is not allowed to play by his parent club Halifax. Good news lies with the possible return of Callum Chippendale who trained last night and will train on Thursday following his thigh injury.

Cooke’s loan has expired but Phillips says that talks have taken place with the Shaymen to extend the agreement once his knee injury clears up.

Ian Richardson