the npl

Weekly News | 28.2.22

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Weekly News | 28.2.22

Matlock boss Martin Carruthers is looking forward to the luxury of having virtually a fully fit squad this weekend ahead of two more vitally important home games within the coming week.

The Gladiators host sixteenth placed Ashton United at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Saturday afternoon before they face league leaders and title favourites South Shields on Tuesday evening (7.45 pm).

Recent injury absentees Robbie McNicholas and Dan Bradley should be fit enough for selection while Brad Abbott is likely to be the only definite exclusion although he did resume more active training on Monday night.

“I’m hoping to have a nice selection headache later this week, probably for the first time since I came to the club” said Carruthers,

“Injuries and suspensions have led to me naming makeshift sides in a lot of the games but now I’m hoping everyone gets through training on Wednesday so we can have a squad of eighteen or nineteen players where I can have the great headache of mulling over the squad and having to leave people out of the sixteen man matchday squad,”

McNicholas picked up a shoulder injury in the scoreless home draw with Warrington Town on February 11 while Bradley left the field in the 1-1 draw at South Shields seven days later with a tight hamstring. Abbott fractured a bone in his leg following a foul challenge by ex Gladiator Shaun Tuton on Boxing Day.

“Having almost everyone fit is a great problem for a manager to have although it’s no easy task to come up with the final eleven” Carruthers added,

Possibly one of the most difficult of choices for Carruthers at present is who goes in goal. Jim Pollard was banned following a red card in the New Year defeat at Gainsborough Trinity and Carruthers brought in the vastly experienced Saul Deeney to fill the void. Deeney went on to keep four clean sheets in six matches before Pollard was recalled for the draw at South Shields and the 3-2 victory at Stalybridge after Deeney collected an ankle injury.

Then last weekend, Deeney got the nod again to face Hyde,

“It’s really difficult choosing between the two of them” admitted Carruthers.

“I went with Saul last Saturday, he’d kept four clean sheets in six matches and has the experience, but we’re fortunate to have two quality goalkeepers and it’s something for me to mull over before each game,”

Carruthers could not hide his disappointment at only drawing 1-1 with a Hyde side who had been reduced to ten men when their skipper Callum Spooner was sent off after conceding the penalty which led to Alex Byrne firing Matlock into a 59th minute lead, Hyde, who struck the post twice from free kicks, rallied to level with seven minutes remaining through the outstanding Jack Redshaw,

“It’s definitely two points dropped, we’d been the better side in the first half having had most of the play and I felt we deserved to be in front at half time. We took that into the second half and the penalty put us ahead and we deserved it. The sending off ended being to our detriment, we took the foot off the gas and I was really disappointed. Harry Wakefield and Jorome Slew had good chances in the second half and it showed that in football if you don’t take the chances and be clinical, there’s always the risk of conceding and dropping points Credit where it’s due to Hyde, they played better with ten men.”

So games on the last two Saturdays against the top two in the division have seen Matlock remain unbeaten but pegged back in 1-1 draws by late equalisers on each occasion.

“Recent performances have been good, we’ve gone toe to toe with the top two and come away with good results.”

Had they held on against South Shields and Hyde, those extra four points would have been invaluable to Matlock and now the pressure is on to maintain their play-off challenge with good results against Ashton and in the return fixture with the Mariners,

After Tuesday night’s scorelines, Matlock are five points outside the final play off spot in seventh. The scores were very much in their favour until late in the day. Radcliffe were surprisingly beaten at home by Atherton Colleries while Warrington Town were being held to a 2-2 draw at home to Whitby Town. But Fin Sinclair-Smith struck a 90th minute winner for Bamber Bridge at second bottom Liversedge to spoil what would have been a good night for the Gladiators.

Carruthers is well aware that the Ashton and South Shields games will be tough and it’s a matter of taking one game at a time.

“With the players they have, Ashton have the look like a National League North outfit so we’re expecting a very hard game. We’ve got to concentrate on getting the win against Ashton before we think about South Shields but I consider Ashton to be a must win game, We’ve got to look at getting at least four out of the next six points although we’ll be going all out to win them both. We’ve shown in the last three games that we’re starting to gell and with players back we hope to be virtually at full strength, Having eighteen or nineteen quality players is fantastic” Carruthers concluded.

The Gladiators chief, instrumental in having his squad training in Matlock and a big advocate of the club playing a key part in the local community, was full of praise for the facilities on offer. On Monday night they went indoors to the gym at Parkside Fitness using the weights before then venturing outside to the 3G pitch at Highfields for more conventional training.

“A big thank you to Parkside Fitness for allowing us to use their excellent facilities and we’ll definitely be using them again on a more regular basis. Highfields is also a tremendous venue and we’re tremendously fortunate and proud to be able to use these facilities for training and also be able to support the local community.”

Ian Richardson