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Weekly News - 2/9/20

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Weekly News - 2/9/20

Paul Phillips will probably be burning the midnight oil this week as he seeks reinforcements to boost his Matlock Town squad.

He takes his side to Tamworth on Saturday for their latest friendly but their next match after that is their opening competitive fixture of the campaign, a trip to West Midlands Regional League outfit OJM Black Country Rangers in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup on Saturday week, OJM winning 5-1 at league rivals Bewdley Town on Tuesday to earn the right to take on the Gladiators.

So time is of the essence with three key areas requiring attention.

Goalkeeper Jon Stewart picked up a knee injury in Tuesday’s scoreless home draw with Sheffield which saw him come off at the interval, this after saving a penalty, to be replaced by Phillips. Stewart could be out for six to ten weeks.

Phillips is also mindful of the need to recruit another midfielder, a trialist who has been with Gateshead impressed in the Sheffield game, and he needs support up front for burly Liam Hughes who often ploughed a lone furrow, crying out for someone with pace to work alongside him.

Phillips says Stewart will be a big miss.

“He’s the best goalkeeper in the league, we missed him for a long time last season with what happened to him, he’s come back but now he’s picked up this injury. We think he’ll be out for six to ten weeks so we’ve got to get out with our begging bowl to the pro clubs and see if we can get someone who’ll come in and do the business.”

Phillips, a goalkeeper himself in his playing days, has no plans to go back between the sticks, but he says the forty five minutes he played there has proved useful.

“I’ll probably feel a bit worse for wear in the morning” said 41 years old Phillips. “But I got the chance to look at the team’s shape from another angle than the dug out. We looked solid as a unit with Yatesy and Ryan Qualter in there. But I want the big fella (Stewart) to play week in, week out, unfortunately that’s not going to happen yet.”

On the other two positions, Phillips praised the trialist midfielder and said he is hopeful of bringing in another midfielder who will be a key signing.

“The trialist from Gateshead, to say he’s only nineteen had an excellent game, he moved the ball about well and we might see what we can do there. We’re also speaking to another midfielder now who’s got a lot of experience, he’s won leagues and he’ll be a massive signing for the football club. We’re also trying to get another forward in,”

Many fans would hope that Chib Chilaka would be given the opportunity in attack but Phillips says the Nigerian goalscorer has work to do on his fitness first, To that end, Chilaka will also sign for Clipstone on a dual registration basis.

“Chib’s a few weeks behind the other lads with the Covid issue and also needing time at home with the birth of his second child, so we’ve told him and Nathan Valentine who’s injured to go away and work on the fitness. Chib’s been down at the Sheffield game with his children and that’s what I want. It’s not about an individual, as I told the lads at half time, it’s a group thing and for me, Chib’s showed he massively wants to be part of this group, I’ll embrace that for that’s what’ll get you more points and over the line in certain games and that’s what we saw last year with Chib.”

Phillips remained upbeat despite the Gladiators failing to find the target for the second successive warm up game., Matlock having lost 2-0 at Trafford on Friday.

“It was a realistic test, credit to Sheffield, they came here and gave a very good account of themselves. We need to be realistic, there’s probably twelve of our players playing their second or third game, I can see positives all the time. While we looked off it

on Friday, we gave a good account of ourselves against Sheffield and could have been two or three goals up in the opening half hour. We know that there’s areas where we’ve got to bring people in certain areas who’re better than what we’ve got at the moment. It won’t happen overnight and it’s difficult this season with the Conference starting later than us as normally players with Conference North clubs filter down and that’s not happening at the moment. It takes time to integrate but I’ve seen positive signs in the Sheffield game.”

The NPL released it’s fixture list last Friday and Matlock will be away at Bamber Bridge in the season’s opener on Saturday 19 September. Their first home game is against Stafford Rangers seven days later.

Ian Richardson