the npl

Weekly News - 15/3/22

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Weekly News - 15/3/22

Matlock boss Paul Phillips says results are now the most important thing as the race for the NPL title starts to come to a head.

With just one win in their seven league matches, the Gladiators lie in third spot, six points behind leaders Buxton with a game in hand. Second placed South Shields are two points in front of Matlock with Phillips’ troops having played one less game.

While Matlock went down to a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Atherton Colleries last Saturday, Buxton were beating Radcliffe 3-0 while Shields earned a point at Basford United in a 1-1 draw. But on Tuesday Shields were beaten by the only goal of the game at Lancaster City.

Now Matlock will be looking to right the wrongs of last weekend with a derby win at Mickleover on Saturday on a ground where they are yet to win a league match.

“I’d take eight bad performances if it brought us eight wins” said Phillips.

“Performances now go out of the window, in the next eight games we’ve got to find a way to win these games.”

They will have to do so without club captain Liam Hughes for the next two matches. Hughes picked up his tenth yellow card of the season against Atherton so he will also miss next weekend’s trip to Scarborough Athletic .

Already angered by the defeat, Hughes’ caution did nothing to improve his manager’s mood.

“I was annoyed with him, I’d had a word with him beforehand saying to keep out of trouble but he goes and gets himself booked. I’ve told him he’s got to look at himself, I’m dealing with it in-house.”

Had Hughes not received a yellow card on Saturday, then his previous four yellow cards would also have been wiped out. What his suspension does do, of course, is to give a chance to someone else and maybe force a change in style.

“Perhaps we’ll not resort so much to taking the easy way out and putting the ball up there in the air” said Phillips.

“We’ve played without Liam before this season, particularly early on when we won well at Nantwich and Warrington so we’ll have to look at finding another way to win games. Also now our last four away games are on astroturf so we’ll need a different kind of plan.”

Reviewing the Atherton defeat, three words again stood out in the manager’s assessment.

“Not good enough” were the words he used directly after the game and he repeated them in midweek.

“We were unbalanced at the end due to the changes we made. We’d had enough chances to win it but they went and nicked a goal. We wanted to win the match but to do that it’s imperative we put the ball in the net. Really I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. We threw players on and it worked at Whitby and Gainsborough but not on Saturday. First and foremost we went for the win for three draws only equals one win. We’re not scoring enough goals, we have players to do it but they’re not doing their jobs. I’ll stick up for them to the hilt when it’s deserved but sometimes you have to come out with the harsh comments.”

Supporters were surprised by Alex Byrne dropping deep in the second half to become more of a full back. But Phillips defended his decision.

“We felt it would give him more time and space to be more effective, he got seven or eight decent balls into the box and we created more chances in the second half, we thought that with Alex looking on to the game would make us more dangerous.”

Phillips hinted that he may be adding to his squad before the weekend, particularly as Liam King and Alex Wiles are both out with injuries to add to Hughes being suspended. The NPL transfer deadline is on Thursday 24 March. Riece Bertram has also been released to return to Belper Town.

Victory for both clubs this coming Saturday is important, with Matlock obviously wanting to stay in contention for the title and the hosts wanting points to move away from the bottom of the table. After five successive wins, Mickleover have taken just one point from the last nine on offer.

“We’ve not been good enough” Phillips reiterated.

” But we’re still up there, had we done our jobs properly we could have been eight points clear by now, We don’t want to be playing second fiddle, we’ve got to go into games knowing we can beat our opponents. We started the season well and have been decent for eighty per cent of it, we can’t go to sleep now, we must all make sure we do our jobs. To the fans I say stick with us, they’ve not had a lot to shout about in the last few weeks but we need them more than ever now.”

Ian Richardson