the npl

Weekly News - 27/10/21

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Weekly News - 27/10/21

Paul Phillips says his Matlock Town side are third favourites for the NPL Premier Division title in spite of the Gladiators having a three point lead at the top of the table.

While Matlock were winning 2-0 at Lancaster City last Saturday, South Shields, who had drawn level with Town on points a week earlier after winning 1-0 at the Proctor Cars Stadium, were going down to a single goal home defeat to third placed Buxton. Gary Hayward’s side are seven points behind Matlock but have three games in hand of the first and second placed clubs.

“In terms of resources, we’re third favourites to win the league, the other two in the top three have far more resources. So it’s credit to our lads who have stuck in there and worked tremendously hard to be in front of South Shields and Buxton at this point in the season.”

Liam Hughes and Reece Kendall were on target at the Giant Axe as again, Matlock responded in positive fashion after a defeat.

“It was a game where we did what we had to do, it was a no frills win against a big physical side. We limited their opportunities and took two that came our way and could possibly have scored more as we missed one or two chances. I thought it was a professional performance on a pitch that wasn’t great.”

Now Matlock take a break from league action with Southern League Premier Central outfit Rushden and Diamonds the visitors to the Proctor Cars Stadium in the FA Trophy on Saturday.

“Saturday’s win was important as we will lead the table for over a week with a three points lead while we take a break for the cup game” although I’d rather be three points clear when we break up for the summer holidays” Phillips added.

“Now we must build on this good start and look at staying there. I’ve taken a look at the league table and we’re presently thirteen points ahead of the club just outside the play-offs in sixth. It’s a good position to be in, I look at every scenario. We must push on and build momentum “

Defender Jamie Sharman made a surprise return to the Gladiators’ defence after aix weeks out with a facial injury sustained away from football. Wearing a mask, he made a vital goal saving clearance in the first half as he came in for Adam Yates who was out due to family commitments. Assistant boss Dave Wild said Sharman was the best player on the pitch at Lancaster, a view shared by a lot of the healthy travelling support.

Phillips though praised all three central defenders as Matlock kept their eighth clean sheet in seventeen league outings.

“ All three central defenders were fantastic, for me there’s no better central defender than Qualts in this league or the one above. Ioan Evans was so good, he won every header and has done a good job for us in spite of him being asked to play on the left. Jamie came back in and given what he’s been through, was first class. He came in for Yatesy, we must thank Yatesy for coming in and doing what he did for us so magnificently. I’m sure he’ll be available for us if needed in future.”

Phillips has changes planned to his line up on Saturday, he has one enforced on him in any event as Liam Hughes received his fifth booking of the season at Lancaster and will serve a one match ban. Fellow striker Ross Hannah is also on the sidelines, he has a four match ban after his red card at Grantham and will miss two more games after this weekend.

The Town gaffer revealed that Paul Cooper is likely to start in goal replacing Shaun Rowley.

“Coops is a great goalkeeper who’s had to be patient with Shaun doing so well . He deserves his chance to show what he can do. Big Jerome (Greaves) will fill the void left by Liam. We haven’t the squad depth to make wholesale changes but it’s a chance for those who haven’t been starting regularly to stake their claim.”

In spite of a changed line up, Phillips is determined to make progress after their dismal exit in the FA Cup to Belper Town.

“It’s a game we want to win, we let ourselves, the club and the fans down massively in the F A Cup. Rushden haven’t had the best of results so far this season but they’re a big well known club at this level We’ve done our homework and it’ll be a tough game, similar to the one at Lancaster. League form tends to go out of the window in cup matches, so we’ll need to be on top of our game to go through. ”

Diamonds were without a win in their previous six matches before they travelled to FA Cup heroes Stratford Town on Tuesday and came home with a 2-1 win.. They currently lie in 11th position with sixteen points from fourteen games.

Matlock’s last home game against South Shields attracted a bumper 1364 gate and while Saturday’s match is unlikely to bring in a similar number of fans, Phillips says it would be great to see more big crowds at the Proctor Cars Stadium. He also praised the away support at Lancaster.

“It was really good to see the double decker filled with our fans and I know others made the journey under their own steam. We had a very good following at Lancaster who got behind the lads. We had 1300 plus at the last home match let’s see a good crowd in on Saturday and in the league games still to come.”

Ian Richardson