the npl

Weekly News | 8.11.23

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Weekly News | 8.11.23

Matlock boss Martin Carruthers was still feeling on top of the world several days after the 4-0 home victory over runaway league leaders Radcliffe, but he was adamant that his side must build on the great result by winning at Bradford (Park Avenue) on Saturday and at home to Hyde United on Tuesday night.

Few would have seen the Radcliffe result coming but Carruthers had asked why can’t we beat Radcliffe in the build up to the game and his faith in the Town squad was justified in what was the Gladiators best performance for many months and probably the best under Carruthers’ management,

“I was absolutely delighted with the performance, we went into the game with confidence after the wins over Basford and North Ferriby when we’d also kept clean sheets and to keep another one against the best club in the division was fantastic. Adam Yates and Nathan Whitehead coming in has been massive for us, their leadership and game management has been brilliant. It couldn’t have gone any better, we rode our luck a little but Saul Deeney showed his true calibre with the way he came out for the crosses and was a calming influence behind the outfield players who were all excellent. To not concede against a team who’ve scored fifty plus goals in all competitions is a real feat.”

There has been quite a turnaround since that horrific night three weeks ago at Ashton United where Matlock capitulated to lose 5-0.

“That’s three clean sheets on the trot now after letting in five at Ashton. It’s a real turnaround, harsh words were said and the players have responded. The words needed to be said and we needed to bring players in who would make us better and that’s happened, hopefully we can win our next two league games and really kickstart our season.”

The division’s top scorer, Jonny Margetts netted all four on Saturday to take his season’s tally to a remarkable 24 in league and cup.

He’s absolutely phenomenal, when we signed him we knew he’d score goals whether they be tap ins or from distance. He’s a natural in front of goal, he’s got that predatory instinct, tap- ins or not he’s got to be there to put them away. He lives and dies for goals, I think we’ll get better so the signs are he’ll score even more.”

Radcliffe joint boss Anthony Johnson in an interview on the Radcliffe website was full of praise for Matlock’s performance on the day but hinted that the Gladiators inconsistency had been a big problem and it was probably down to the players not giving their all in every game.

“Jonno’s comments are spot on and we’ve told the players that. Prior to the Basford game they’d not performed how they should have done and that’s why we are where we are in the table. It’s an honest reflection of our efforts so far but Saturday has now set the standards, the lads raised their game against a top side and got their reward. Consistency is now the key. If we can play like we did on Saturday we can beat anyone but if we drop below those standards then we’ll have problems. Saturday’s result will count for nothing if we can’t go to Bradford and win”,

Carruthers though is well aware of the potential pitfalls in Saturday’s trip to the Horsfall Stadium. Avenue, relegated from National League North last May have struggled again this term in the NPL and presently sit one place outside the relegation zone. A 2-0 defeat at Basford last weekend led to the departure of manager Mark Bower.

“We all know there’s no easy games in this league and with Bradford parting company with their manager this week there could be the added pressure of their players wanting to prove something to anyone who might be watching on with a view to taking over. The manager going could give them a lift so we’ll have to be wary of this. But as I’ve said, we need to build on last Saturday and if we can win and then beat Hyde at home where we’re a different breed, a different animal, it’ll leave us well placed for a push at the play-offs and that’s really where we want to be. So a win at Bradford would be a huge three points for us.”

There were no injury problems from Saturday and their squad for the weekend will be boosted by the return of defender Ioan Evans who got married last Saturday.

In other playing news, Robbie McNicholas is departing the Proctor Cars Stadium due to a job promotion in Manchester which will prevent him from playing in midweek games and attending training. However the Gladiators are retaining his NPL registration so that McNicholas can be called upon in extenuating circumstances.

Midfielder Sam Hooper has had some time out of the game and he has joined Sheffield on loan.

“Sam’s lost a bit of confidence so hopefully going to Sheffield will do him a power of good and his confidence will return” explained Carruthers who also revealed that winger Archie White has had a setback in his recovery from a groin injury.

“Archie’s going to be out for another two months or so, he’s had a scan on his groin and he’s got a problem again so we’re looking at early January at the earliest which is a blow for the lad and the club.”

Last Saturday’s game was played after a precautionary mid morning inspection of the Causeway Lane pitch following heavy rain towards the end of the week and steady rain throughout Saturday. It meant that the more vocal fans in the home crowd moved from the viewing area outside the Social Club to the Ecobat Stand behind the Town End goal. Carruthers says he would like them to remain in that position.

“We want those young lads to stay in the stand behind the goal if they could because their support on Saturday was much louder being under cover. It was great where they stood before but even better and the team responded really well to it” said Carruthers.

Saturday’s game was watched by a number of former Gladiators players from the late 1980’s, including some of the side which were beaten 4-1 at Scunthorpe United on the last occasion Matlock made it through to the First Round Proper of the FA Cup.

Many stories and anecdotes from their time at Matlock were aired, including the performances of midfielder John Sheppard, a universally popular player who sadly died earlier this year. John’s wife Claire and family were in attendance which was appreciated by fellow team mates, club officials and fans.

Striker Kevin Gee organised the reunion and he said it was a special day.

“It was a great day all round and it really did feel that John was with us. I know it was a really emotional day for Claire but one that she really appreciated too. Thanks to the club for making it a really special day that meant a lot to the players. It was nice after the game with everybody being in high spirits as a few of the old guard came over and asked for a fgew photos of the players. Keep winning, we’ll be coming down again hopefully towards the end of the season.”

Ian Richardson