the npl

Weekly News - 21/1/21

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Weekly News - 21/1/21

As written and received on Wednesday 20th January:

Paul Phillips has been in the managerial hot seat at Matlock Town for a year this week and what a strange and challenging year it’s been!

The former Ashton United and Buxton boss was swiftly installed after Steve Kittrick’s departure and was hoping for a good result in his opening match at Mickleover a couple of days later.

But as the majority of non league football followers would tell you that game never took place as news emerged of an attack on Matlock midfielder Jordan Sinnott which led to his untimely death a couple of hours after the scheduled finish of the game.

“It’s been a strange year. It was a difficult start for me and for everyone at the club and all our thoughts are with Jordan’s family and friends on the first anniversary of his passing” said Phillips..

“It was part of a time when there was more bad news for the club than good and I was very proud of how the lads reacted to the terrible news and played the game versus Hyde when there was a lot of media attention on them and the club. Everyone conducted themselves magnificently.”

The Gladiators had slid alarmingly down the table after being league leaders with a 100 per cent record at the start of the campaign to become embroiled in a relegation struggle before Covid-19 entered the equation to have a devastating impact on non league football.

The 2019/20 season was declared null and void and Phillips set about improving the Matlock squad to try and ensure there would be no repeat of the struggles of 2019/20.

“It was time for me and my staff to put our own stamp on things and I think people can see , and with no disrespect to previous management teams, we’ve brought in players of a different element, a different mentality and ability into the club..”

Since his appointment, Matlock have played just nineteen league and cup matches in a year, a stark contrast to what would happen in a non Covid year when that figure would amount to probably at least fifty.

“The stop/start has probably been the hardest part of it to take, especially after bringing something like thirteen new lads in. Everybody wanted and still wants to get their teeth into it and push on but with the amount of deaths from the pandemic, understandably that’s not going to happen. We were on a good run before we suffered from players contracting the virus and after having twelve positive tests within the group, perhaps the result at Coleshill was a little easier to understand. It put the lid on a frustrating time when we were halted through no fault of our own.”

Matlock had an impressive league record when the season was halted, albeit having played only six matches in which they had won four, drawn one and lost one.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to compete well and be up there with the likes of Buxton who were expected to probably win the league” Phillips added.

“It’s difficult to pick out a particular game as a highlight in my first year here, for me, it’s that the crowds are up with people seeming to buy into what we’ve been doing.The fans have been fantastic, it’s been great to see so many of our fans away from home as well, like on a rainy night at Coalville.”

Phillips will be hoping for a more relaxing second year in charge of the Gladiators with his preparations well in hand for whenever NPL football returns.

Defender Reece Kendall made his debut for Guiseley and impressed in the Lions’ 1-0 away defeat in National League North at Gateshead last Saturday. Kendall is presently on a month’s loan at the Yorkshire club.

Ian Richardson