the npl

Weekly News - 18.10.23

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Weekly News - 18.10.23

The 5-0 defeat at Ashton again highlighted the problems manager Martin Carruthers faces as Matlock find life tough in the NPL Premier Division this season.

Carruthers knows what is required but finding the experienced men he needs is proving to be difficult.

The lack of know-how and how to see a game out cost them two vital points at home to Workington on Saturday, the visitors wiping out a two goal deficit to earn a draw which overshadowed what had been a fine display for the first seventy minutes when new signings Finlay Armond and Harry Wood both played prominent roles. Armond, once with Boston United arrived from Sleaford Town while Wood returns to the Proctor Cars Stadium for a second spell on a dual registration with Stamford after a four and a half years absence.

The Town boss was largely pleased with the showing against Workington but says Matlock paid the price for not doing in the final twenty minutes what they had achieved in the opening seventy.

“We were in total control of the game, we looked comfortable but we sat off and defended deep, you can’t do it and we got punished. We set our standards in the first half, playing some of the best football we’ve played this season. We should have been two up at half time, some of our link up play was great. But panic set in, our game management was poor and we got punished.”

Thirty minutes in at Ashton Matlock had reproduced the form from the first three quarters of the draw with Workington but once the third placed hosts went in front with a screamer, the Gladiators were up against it.

“We started really well, we were the better side for the first thirty minutes but then a poor decision from the referee giving them a goal kick when it was a corner led to them going 1-0 up. I said to the players at half time that we were still in the game, we can get back into it and get at least a point but we conceded a poor goal five minutes in from our own corner before we capitulated. Losing JJ (John Johnston) and Evo (Ioan Evans) didn’t help but it was a case again of us needing to show more heart, more desire and standing up to be counted. The second half was simply not good enough and although we’re doing generally okay in scoring goals, we’ve got the second worst defensive record and that’s got to be addressed.”

Matlock have some good young talent but they need experience and strength to help guide them through the tough rigours of the NPL.

“We need three experienced players, we need leaders who will drive each other and the younger players on. When we go 1-0 down there’s no character, if we don’t score first then we’re not in a good place.”

Whether Carruthers finds all or some of the experience he needs ahead of the Whitby trip remains to be seen. What is clear though that with Whitby having a good season having reached the FA Cup 1st Round following a replay win at home to Chelmsford City on Tuesday, Matlock need to tighten up all around the park and be more resilient than of late. Given also the inclement weather that has been forecast on what tends to be a sticky surface at the Towbar Express Stadium, and as former Matlock winger Al Byrne said after the Ashton defeat, against a tall , physical and direct side, it looks like Matlock will have it all to do to come home with anything.

There is likely to be one addition although this is a striker but clearly Carruthers will be burning the midnight oil to add to his squad, particularly with the injuries picked up by central defender Ioan Evans (foot) and skipper John Johnston (jarred knee) at Ashton. Karl Demidh is expected to return after missing two games with a foot injury and Archie White might be in the squad for the first time this term following groin trouble.

Carruthers has the task of lifting the spirits of his troops in preparation for Whitby.

“I’ve got to lift them, pick them up, we’ll have to assess the squad at training on Thursday. We’ve got to refocus, that’s two successive away games in which we’ve conceded five goals, that can’t happen, we can’t be travelling to Manchester or wherever on a Tuesday night and wasting the time of our fans by letting in five. Our supporters are magnificent and don’t deserve results like these, nearly 900 in on Saturday which is phenomenal and we get a good loud following away. They back us to the hilt and we’ve got to give them something to cheer about.”

Matlock return to home soil on Tuesday to take on one of Carruthers’ former clubs Nasford United in a game which already has that must win look for both clubs.

Ian Richardson