the npl

Weekly News - 22.3.22

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Weekly News - 22.3.22

Matlock Town boss Paul Phillips kept his word when he said after Saturday’s defeat at Mickleover that he needed to add to his squad.

With the NPL transfer deadline being at 5 pm on Thursday, there have been three additions plus one departure with one maybe two more players coming in.

Leaving is striker Marcus Marshall, although Matlock will retain his NPL registration, to join National League North AFC Telford and was expected to make his Bucks debut against Guiseley on Tuesday night.

Confirmed incomings so far see the return of speedy winger Osebi Abadaki from Ashton United while two of New Mills’ leading lights, striker or midfielder Benito Lowe and midfielder Darren McKnight have joined Matlock on a dual registration arrangement.

Nigerian Abadaki (30) left Matlock in the summer and has since played for Barwell and Stourbridge before spending a second spell at Ashton United before joining the Gladiators once again.

Lowe and McKnight have been brought in as cover with their number one priority for the short term at least being New Mills play off challenge in the North West Counties League. With the Millers’ regular season having to be completed by 2 April, Phillips took the opportunity to bring the pair in.

“We’ve had Ossie before and he’ll hopefully fit the bill for us for we’ve lacked pace generally going forward recently” said Phillips.

“I’d also like to thank New Mills for their help in us getting Darren and Benito. Their season’s finishing earlier than the NPL so while at first they’ll be with New Mills, we’ll be able to have them with us in the last part of the season.”

Phillips should also be adding another attacker who at the time of writing must remain anonymous with the signing yet to be confirmed by the FA and the NPL.

“This lad scored sixteen goals the season before last in a higher league, he has pace, knowledge and will add quality. A different looking forward line will offer us more pace.”

Marshall (32) re-joined Matlock back in January from Basford United after spending two years at Greenwich Avenue being the Gladiators’ leading scorer in the Covid abandoned 2019/20 season.

“Telford asked about Marcus and then spoke to him. Marcus wants a regular game which I can’t guarantee him so he’s gone to Telford who are a great club with the opportunity of playing at a higher level. He’s been in and out with us, they offered him a regular game but we’re going to keep his registration going forward.”

The loss at Mickleover kept up Matlock’s sorry record of never having won a league game at Station Road. It was a costly defeat with Buxton picking up a point in a scoreless draw at Whitby and South Shields gaining all three points in a 4-2 home win over Bamber Bridge. Buxton now lead Town by seven points and Shields have a five points advantage, with Matlock having a game in hand.

Matlock lost 2-1 with Ioan Evans netting a consolation with twenty minutes left after Mickleover had gone two goals in front. Despite an indifferent Matlock performance, the old problem of failing to take chances came back to haunt the Gladiators.

“We took a long time to wake up, we lacked intensity. We’ve played badly before and won games, on Saturday we looked a yard short, we looked jaded and people weren’t doing what they have been doing for most of the season. I’ll say it again, we’re not scoring enough goals, other teams have people knocking in fifteen or sixteen goals which helps you a long way down the line. When Terry Hawkridge came on we looked more calculated in what we did, but the be all and end all is that we’re creating chances, but we’re not taking them and that’s our biggest crime.”

Matlock have now won just once in their last nine outings and need to arrest the slump urgently to ensure they gain a play off spot if they can’t win the title.

“I don’t think it’s not being able to handle the pressure, it’s more a case of too many people having a bad spell. A few have come in and not lived up to expectations, that’s down to me, I do the recruiting. Lads like Al Byrne. Liam Hughes, Alex Wiles and Ryan Qualter have been fantastic. But now they’re having a bit of a drop, others haven’t been helping them out. We’ve got to regroup, reset and go again. We’ve given too many points away through a lack of goals.”

Matlock’s poor run is the worst since Phillips took over in January 2020.

“It’s the first one and hopefully the last and it’s not acceptable. I’m not going to pull the lads to bits, there’s still some twists and turns to be had yet. I’m still confident of promotion, if I’m not who is? We’re in a better place than a lot of teams. When I first came I was met with a vacant look in the changing room after a defeat but with this set of lads you go in there and you can tell it hurts them just as much as it does the fans and people behind the scenes. We need the support of the fans, not just when we’re winning. To be fair I’ve had texts off fans telling us to keep going and we’ve done well. But I don’t want us to play second fiddle, I want us to win something to make our fans proud.”

The Gladiators face a massive game at fourth placed Scarborough Athletic on Saturday before welcoming Radcliffe to the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday evening.

The Seadogs are level on points with Matlock having played a game more. They are expecting a crowd in the region of 1800 on Saturday with it being Non League Day and the squad that gained promotion to the Football League in 1987 will all be in attendance along with manager at the time Neil Warnock.

“This is the kind of game I want where we can roll our sleeves up when the chip's are down so I’d rather play Scarborough than someone else. It’ll be tough, Scarborough showed at our place they’re a very good side so although it’s a big ask we’ll be looking to win on Saturday” Phillips added.

Alex Wiles will need further assessment having retired at halftime in his comeback after injury at Mickleover. Terry Hawkridge took a knock and Callum Chippendale missed training on Tuesday through illness. Liam Hughes completes his two-match ban.

Ian Richardson