the npl

Weekly News - 24.1.23

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Weekly News - 24.1.23

Matlock Town can hopefully return to Pitching In NPL Premier Division action this weekend after having their last two matches . at home to South Shields and at home to Guiseley, called off due to a frozen Proctor Cars Stadium pitch.

Their last outing was a fine 2-0 victory at Stafford Rangers a week last Saturday when early goals from Karl Demidh and John Johnston soon put the Gladiators in command before they repelled a strong Stafford fightback in the second half.

Ideally Matlock would have wanted to build on that win but with injuries to three players in goalkeeper Saul Deeney, captain Ryan Qualter and striker Demidh, maybe the postponements were not such a bad thing, a view shared by manager Martin Carruthers.

“Yes it was beneficial for us with the weather governing whether the games would go ahead, not playing certainly helped us. Karl definitely wouldn’t have made the game against South Shields on the Tuesday and Saul and Qualts were both touch and go. In a perfect world we’d have wanted to play the games but the weather conditions leading to frozen pitches meant we couldn’t play and that was probably a blessing in disguise. They’re three key players, Karl’s in a rich vein of form scoring wise, two games two goals, Saul had kept the clean sheet at Stafford and Qualts is vital for the experience he has. But now they’re back to 100 per cent fit ahead of the Lancaster game.”

More good news for Matlock fans is that midfielder Brad Abbott is progressing well from his broken leg.

“I’ve spoken with Brad and he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to do some light jogging in the next ten days or so, so hopefully things are looking better for us on the injury front” Carruthers added.

The Gladiators travel to the Giant Axe in search of a third league double of the season, having beaten the Dolly Blues by a single Alex Wiles strike at the Proctor Cars Stadium in September.

Midweek results saw Matlock drop from sixth to eighth in a very congested race for a play off spot. FC United of Manchester’s 2-0 win at struggling Nantwich Town saw the Reds move into sixth while Marine’s 1-0 success at home to out of form Stafford Rangers took the Crosby club to seventh. Lancaster did the Gladiators a favour by recovering from a two goal deficit at Radcliffe to draw 2-2, a Radcliffe victory would also have seen the Stainton Park club leapfrog the Gladiators.

Matlock are now four points adrift of fifth placed Warrington Town but have two games in hand so the importance of picking up another favourable result at the weekend cannot be under-estimated, a view not lost on Carruthers.

“Three points on Saturday would be huge, especially given the fact it’s FC United at home in our next game. The game’s will come thick and fast now, the aim is to get on an unbeaten run to try and stay in contention for the end of the season. A good result at Lancaster is imperative as we try to cement a place in the play-offs. In this league it’s so tight, a really good league where anyone can beat anyone else, a lot different from the league I came from when I was at Ilkeston. In the Southern Premier Central the top five teams look as if they’re the ones who will the play-off teams, one obviously will win it.Ilkeston and Basford are just outside and will need to go on a hell of a run to end up in the top five. Our league’s completely different, it’s a lot more physical for a start. In the Southern League there’s a lot more football played, you get more time on the ball, the Northern Premier’s a more aggressive where you’ve got to take the chances when they come along.”.

Lancaster’s result at Radcliffe was probably unsurprising, they are the draw specialists with eleven of their twenty four league games ending all square. It was their fourth draw on the trot. Defensively they have the fourth meanest record, having let in 29 goals in their twenty four games played and lie in sixteenth place in the table.

So Carruthers is expecting a tough competitive game.

“They’re a hard side, I’ve watched a few highlights of their games and with a bobbly pitch up there again it’ll not be an easy game. We must look firstly to keep a clean sheet but also we need to be looking at winning the game. Players are coming back to full fitness again so coupled with the win at Stafford, they should go into the game with confidence.”

There’s fresh dates for the recently postponed South Shields and Marine home matches. Title favourites South Shields will visit Matlock on Tuesday 7 March with Marine in town on the following Tuesday, March 14, both games having 7.45 pm kick-offs. A new date for the Guiseley game should be announced in the coming days.

Ian Richardson