the npl

Weekly News - 22.10.20

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Weekly News - 22.10.20

Two successive 1-0 away victories were just what the doctor ordered before Matlock’s return to the Proctor Cars Stadium for this weekend’s tasty home clash with Scarborough Athletic and a further home meeting with Nantwich Town on Tuesday night..

Few outside the Derbyshire Dales would have backed the Gladiators to return from title favourites South Shields with maximum points, but Matlock did just that. After surviving a penalty miss by Shields’ Robert Briggs in the 14th minute, Matlock stood firm and scored through Alex Byrne with nineteen minutes left to make it a happy day in the north east.

Then on Tuesday night, Matlock handed Grantham another defeat at their hands, repeating the scoreline from their FA Cup tie at the South Kesteven Stadium eighteen days previously, this time a Declan Walker penalty in the 24th minute earning them their three points.

Matlock now lie in second spot, three points behind leaders Warrington Town with a game in hand.

Manager Paul Phillips’ praised his defence as these two latest clean sheets make it six in ten competitive matches this season., and in particular gave a glowing reference to Jake Hull, on loan from Rotherham United, who replaced the suspended Adam Yates at Grantham.

“We’ve defended brilliantly, lads have again thrown their bodies on the line to keep the clean sheet in both games, it again shows the spirit we have here in the club. I can’t praise them enough and particularly Jake Hull who at eighteen/nineteen has come in for his first NPL game and won challenge after challenge, header after header and kept a very good player in Jake Stobbs quiet. What a debut, he never put a foot wrong and he’s really given me something to think about for Saturday as Yatesy will be available again.”

Phillips had already praised the spirit in the camp after the South Shields win.

“It was a long journey and we played probably the best footballing side in the league. Not ideal preparation for another difficult game with Grantham. They(Grantham) may well be near the bottom but seriously they’re not bad and they gave us plenty of problems. But it’s nice to get another win away from home, and really I don’t care how we win. It was an ugly win, I’m not sure there’ll be too many DVD’s sold of the game but I’d rather be on the right end of a scrappy 1-0 win than a defeat. I thought we played into Grantham’s hands for sixty or so minutes and we missed Hughesy (suspended Liam Hughes) a bit for his ability to hold the ball up. But Joe Bunney did well up front with Chippy,(Callum Chippendale) he’s won us the penalty and caused the opposition problems.”

A capacity 600 crowd due to Covid-19 restrictions on Step 3 clubs attendances, is expected for the visit of Scarborough who are likely to include three former Gladiators in defenders Harry Coates, Lewis Turner and Bailey Gooda.

“It’ll be another hard game, one to relish though, we’ll have to take a look at how people are and get their bodies ready for Saturday” Phillips added.

Hughes and Kade Coppin remain suspended but Matlock hope that Craig King will be back in the fold after a sickness bug which saw him miss out at Grantham.

The signing of Bunney last Friday gave Phillips and Matlock a boost for his versatility showed through in particular against South Shields. He came on as a substitute after Callum Dolan took a bad knock midway through the first half, initially playing in tandem in attack with Liam Hughes. When Reece Kendall went off midway through the second period, Bunney reverted to left wing back, a position he was converted to by Rochdale boss Keith Hill earlier in his career. He claimed assists in his two appearances to date, crossing for Byrne to head the decider at Mariners Park before being brought down for the winning penalty in midweek.

Phillips says Matlock are still looking to strengthen in attack but reiterated the need for a strong defence.

“Yes we’re looking for that striker, every club is, they cost money so we want the right deal but a successful team is built from the back and defensively we’ve done very well as the statistics show. If you can defend as we’ve been doing and take your chance when it comes along as we did at South Shields and use the pace of the likes of Callum Dolan and Osebi Abadaki, plus keep hold of possession in attack then we’ll not be far short.”

Matlock’s bad luck with the cup draws this season was maintained on Monday when they were paired with Southern League Central Division leaders Coalville Town in the 1st Qualifying Round of the Buildbase FA Trophy. They are again on their travels to make it five out of five away ties in FA competitions this term.

“It’ll be a hard game, a really tough test, they’ll be a big, strong physical team but again let’s set ourselves against a very good side and see how we do” said Phillips.

The tie will take place on Saturday 31 October with the hosts likely to include popular former Matlock midfielder Joe Doyle-Charles in their line up.

Ian Richardson