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Weekly News - 29/7/20

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Weekly News - 29/7/20

Manager Paul Phillips has been pleased by what he has seen from Matlock Town’s new look squad as pre season training was stepped up last weekend after a number of socially distanced training get togethers during the summer.

“It’s been really good, we’ve had two intense sessions on Saturday and Tuesday, everyone’s been fantastic and worked really hard. They’ve done something between 12 and 15 kilometres of running in these sessions and that’s no mean feat at this point of pre season” said Phillips who has been busy formulating the Gladiators pre season friendly programme.

Matlock currently have six away fixtures confirmed and have left slots in the schedule to welcome three higher league clubs to the Proctor Cars Stadium. The provisional home slots are Friday 21 and 28 August and Tuesday 8 September which are subject to alteration depending on the Government’s stance on allowing admission to paying spectators plus the commitments of the opposition. Currently friendlies taking place before 5 September have to take place behind closed doors due to Covid 19 circumstances.

The friendly games begin next Thursday evening (6 August) at New Mills before Matlock are in Manchester on Saturday 8 August to take on Wythenshawe Town. NPL North West Division Brighouse Town host Matlock on Saturday 15 August, a game which will see new full back Reece Kendall return to his old club. Clipstone, managed by former Matlock boss Dave Hoole are the opposition on Tuesday 18 August while Matlock will face Sheffield FC at their Dronfield base on Tuesday 25 August. Sheffield’s squad will likely include former Gladiators Ted Cribley and Marc Newsham. The list of away matches ends with a trip to Tamworth who were in second spot in the Southern Premier League Central Division and favourites to win the title before the Covid-19 outbreak curtailed last season.

“I’ve been inundated with requests to play us but I think we’ve got a good mix of games” said Phillips.

“It’s good to play the professional teams from the club’s point of view and with the finance they can bring in from good crowds but I like to see how we fare in games against the non league sides which replicates what we’re likely to come up against week in, week out when the season starts. The lower division teams will push you to the limit and will be keen to show what they can do against you and then we’ve got the two games against the NPL First Division sides plus Tamworth which will be an excellent test for us. We start out at New Mills, I’m great friends with their management team and I think they’ll provide a really good game to start us off.”

On player recruitment, Phillips expressed his satisfaction with the progress made to date with twelve new players on the books so far with more to come.

Matlock hope to confirm two more outfield additions shortly plus a second goalkeeper and are presently talking to another midfielder who Phillips would not name but has been captain of Manchester City under 21’s.

“I’m more than happy with where we are and I’ve been speaking with a ball playing midfielder who was captain of the under 21’s at Manchester City fairly recently. If we can get him it’ll be good for us for he’ll add another dimension with him being good on the ball and he’d be the type of player we’d need in tight games when we’re looking to unlock the opposing defence” Phillips added.

But for one Matlock midfielder, it’s a tale of woe.

After picking up an ankle injury and not playing since the 2-1 defeat at Scarborough Athletio in January, Jack Rea reported back in a positive mood but his plans were soon in disarray as Phillips explained.

“Jack came back and was raring to go, he’d followed the off season programmes we’d set to a tee only to twist his knee and he needs an ACL operation. He’d worked really hard and my heart goes out to him. We don’t know when the operation will be but we’ll all support him as much as we can.”

Rea is the third Matlock player to undergo an ACL operation in eighteen months. Craig King picked up a freak injury in a home defeat to Farsley Celtic in February 2019 and hopes to resume playing again this season. Nathan Whitehead came off in the home win over Gainsborough Trinity last August and is presently on the road to recovery.

In other news, Alfreton Town have announced the signing of defender Dwayne Wiley who had spent four seasons with the Gladiators and Matlock have extended their early bird season ticket deadline by a fortnight to August 14. From 1 August fans will be able to order goods from the Club Shop online. Further details can be found on the official club website www.matlocktownfc.co.uk or on the club’s social media outlets.

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The new NPL season is currently set to start on Saturday 19 September but there’s a chance that Matlock might be in competitive action before then.

The Gladiators could be involved in FA Cup Preliminary Round action on Saturday 12 September after on Tuesday news filtered through from the FA that up to four NPL Premier Division clubs could be involved at this stage of the competition.

736 clubs entered the competition last season and the intention is for the same number of clubs to be involved again in 2020/21. Fifteen clubs from the Step 3 leagues, the NPL Premier, the two Southern Premier Divisions and the Isthmian Premier will be required to play in the Preliminary Round as opposed to the First Qualifying Round which is usually the case for clubs at Matlock’s level.

If league positions are used to decide who plays in the Preliminary Round, the Gladiators could well be starting competitive football a week earlier than most of their Premier Division counterparts as they were in third bottom spot when the season came to a premature end due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Should Matlock find themselves in the Preliminary Round, manager Paul Phillips says it is a situation Matlock must accept and embrace.

“We’ve got to prepare for that if it happens and we should look at it positively in that it will be a really lly competitive game before the league games get under way. It would be an important game for the club and one we’d want to win and we’d hope it would act as a springboard for the games that follow.”

All will be revealed on Monday when the draws for the Extra Preliminary and Preliminary Rounds, the competition format and the prize fund will be published by the FA.

Ian Richardson