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Weekly News - 11/8/21

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Weekly News - 11/8/21

Matlock Town boss has one new signing in the bag and is hopeful of two more ahead of Saturday’s Pitching IN NPL Premier Division curtain raiser at Ashton United.

Nineteen years old midfielder Lirak Hasani has arrived at the Proctor Cars Stadium on loan from Doncaster Rovers , subject to NPL and FA approval and should be included in Phillips’ squad for the trip to Hurst Cross.

Hasani joined the Rovers academy when he was eleven years old and has worked his way through the youth system, eventually making his debut for the first team at the age of sixteen away at table topping Luton Town.

In all he has made four first team appearances for Rovers and was an unused substitute in their penalty shoot out victory in the Carabou Cup at Walsall on Tuesday night. Last season he was on loan at National League North Gateshead before the campaign was curtailed due to the Covid pandemic.

“He’s an experienced second year pro who’ll offer us something a bit different in the centre of the midfield, I feel we need someone with a bit more creativity in there” Phillips explained.

The Matlock boss kept his cards closely to his chest regarding the other two potential new recruits but confirmed that the loan signing of the striker from a Football League club is off for at least the time being.

“The lad’s still awaiting his test results, as we’ve said before his health is the most important so we have to move on. It goes without saying that we hope everything’s fine with him and we might be able to look at again at some point.”

After a pre season which saw the Gladiators win an impressive eight out of nine matches played, it’s now time for the real stuff to start.

“It’s about time” said Phillips.

“I think you’ll see the lads in a different gear, there’ll be that extra competitive edge and hopefully if we can get everyone up and fit we’ll be a better team.”

The Ashton opener is part of a tough start for the Gladiators who then host Basford United on Tuesday night (7.45pm) and Hyde United on Saturday week before two difficult away matches in Cheshire, at Nantwich Town and Warrington Town.

“It’s a tough start, we play some very good sides early on but my view is that you have to play everyone twice, other teams might be saying the same about facing us after our pre season and how we did last season before the season was curtailed. We weren’t great in the first game last year (a 1-0 loss at Bamber Bridge) but got better. Injuries and covid haven’t helped us, but we want to hit the ground running. Hopefully we’ll have a strong enough team to bring us three points from a very difficult game at Ashton.”

It will be a return to an old stomping ground for Phillips who has played and managed the Robins while Sam Egerton, Kayde Coppin, Mark Lees and John Pritchard have also been on the books at Ashton.

“It’s a local club for me as well, we know it’s going to be a tough game. Sentimentality goes out of the window, we’re all representing Matlock Town now, ensuring Matlock have tree points by 5 pm on Saturday is all that matters.”

After nearly ten months without playing a league match, Phillips says it will feel strange at last preparing for a league game.

“It’s been different, strange, I’ve not known what to do with myself. But Saturday’s what we’ve been preparing for, it’s exactly what this team needs. Really this group of players is still in it’s infancy given what’s happened in the world. I’ll be looking for them to be competitive and do things right.”

Pritchard looks to be doubtful for Saturday after having an x ray on an ankle injury. Strikers Ross Hannah and Jonathan Wafula both missed the final pre season win at Ossett United on Saturday through covid issues, while midfielder Callum Chippendale sat the game out with a slight groin complaint but all three are expected to train on Thursday and be in the frame for selection. Skipper Liam Hughes is out through a three game suspension which will also see him absent from the home games with Basford and Hyde.

Ken Forbes, known throughout the NPL as a stalwart volunteer for the Gladiators, sadly passed away on Monday afternoon. Ken used to walk from his home at Brassington to clean the Causeway Lane ground.

Matlock Chairman Bryn Apperley said the club had lost a “Marvellous volunteer”.

“He took great pride in keeping the ground clean, being down early on a Sunday morning to clean the terraces and ground after a home game on a Saturday. He gave outstanding service to the club and we’re all deeply saddened to hear of his passing.”

A minute’s silence will be held prior to Tuesday night’s home game with Basford.

Ian Richardson