the npl

Weekly News | 28.9.22

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Weekly News | 28.9.22

Craig Elliott appears to be a hard taskmaster despite his Matlock Town side picking up two wins this week to lift them into second place in the NPL Premier Division table.

Matlock though have played more matches than anyone in the division so they know they will need to keep picking up the wins. The table will have a more realistic look about it when the flood of midweek matches end at the end of October.

Alex Wiles scored his sixth goal of a personally productive season to beat visiting Lancaster City on Saturday and another single goal victory came at Ashton United, who were second in the table prior to lick off, on Tuesday. Ryan Qualter’s first goal of the campaign ensured the three points would return to Derbyshire.

Elliott is five games into his tenure as Matlock boss after replacing Paul Phillips and while he is generally pleased with what he has seen so far, he says there is still much work to be done.

“We’re doing okay but we’re still miles off where I want us to be” said Elliott reflecting on nine points out of fifteen since his arrival.

“Fair play to the players, we’ve seen improvements and they’re a very good bunch. But there’s still lots I want to do with them. We’ve got a free midweek next week so there’s things we’ve got to work on. I’ve not yet had the chance to say to the players how we as a management team work so we’ll be using that time productively so we can keep on improving to take this club to where it wants to be.”

Talking specifically about the Lancaster and Ashton games, Elliott reckoned that Matlock ought to have won by more than the solitary goal.

“ We’ve had superb first halves in both games, we should really have been comfortably in front at half time both on Saturday and on Tuesday. We were undoubtedly the better team in both matches and at Ashton I think we’ve played our best football since I arrived, taking into consideration the opposition as they were second in the table and unbeaten at home. It’s a difficult place to come to, we’ve limited them to no chances. I told the players in the pre match team talk that we faced two challenges, we’ve not won back to back games this season and our away record’s dreadful, and if we want to get to where we want to be , we’ve got to improve that so I’m really pleased that they accepted that challenge and delivered at Ashton. We’ve now won back to back games and improved the away record so we can look onwards and upwards now.”

As well as scoring the winner, captain Qualter was at his best at the other end as Matlock recorded another clean sheet.

“Clean sheets breed confidence and they’re important in a good away performance. Everybody’s got to contribute at different parts of the game. But I thought our attackers did well, they were exceptional tonight and perhaps didn’t get the goals their play deserved. It was a very good team performance and we fully deserved the three points.”

Elliott admits that he’s always looking to improve the squad but he is prepared to show patience until the right people become available.

“I’m always talking to players but in all honesty nobody’s felt right. This is a really good group, there’s very good lads in the dressing room and some really good players so I’m not going to force the issue. We’ll take it as it comes. People have got to be better than what we’ve got here and that’s difficult to do. While the lads are giving me everything which they’re doing, I won’t be changing anything and bringing in individuals who may spoil this group.”

The Gladiators are back at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Saturday, scheduled opponents Marske United are in FA Cup action so the match against Nantwich Town, originally scheduled for Tuesday 18 October, has been brought forward. The Marske game now has a new date of Tuesday 25 October.

Nantwich are currently in an unfamiliar eighteenth spot having lost their last two games to Whitby and Hyde but Elliott says he is still expecting a tough match.

“You can never take teams for granted, Lancaster have been struggling but still made it hard for us in the last fifteen minutes on Saturday. We have to approach all of our games and respect the opponents for this is a very tough league” warned Elliott.

Alex Byrne will be missing from the Gladiators line up through suspension following his contentious red card after an accidental collision with Lancaster goalkeeper Curtis Anderson which forced off the goalkeeper with facial injuries.

Matlock will also be at home on Saturday week (8 October) as they begin their Isuzu FA Trophy campaign at the third qualifying round stage against NPL Midlands Division outfit Sutton Coldfield Town The Royals have already beaten both Grantham Town and Halesowen Town in their FA Trophy journey so far.

Ian Richardson