the npl

Weekly News - 4/12/19

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Weekly News - 4/12/19

Matlock Town look as though they might be returning to form as they prepare for their first ever visit to Broadhurst Park on Saturday to take on FC United of Manchester.

After being very much second best in the home defeat by Stalybridge Celtic on November 16, the Gladiators have since progressed in both the Buildbase FA Trophy and the Integro NPL Cup and looked on course for a welcome three points at Grantham Town last Saturday until thick fog descended on The Meres. Matlock were leading 2-1 and had a man advantage after the Gingerbreads’ Charlie Ward had been sent off late in the first half. Referee Ben Cooke called a halt to proceedings sixteen minutes into the second half.

“It was frustrating but it was the right decision” said Matlock boss Steve Kittrick at the time.

But Kittrick and the Matlock supporters left Grantham encouraged by the Gladiators’ performance, Piteu Crouz adding to his goal and assist at Belper by notching both goals after Kieran Wells had put the hosts in front.

“One or two of the players have gone through spells when they weren’t at it and it happens to everyone. They look now as if they’ve got their mojo back and it was a great performance at Grantham, Everyone looked on top of their game.”

The only blot on the Matlock performance was conceding the goal to go behind when they had looked in command.

“We’ve got to be more prepared when teams come forward against the run of the play, we need to be more vigilant and concentrate better” said Kittrick.

“But even when we went behind I was confident we’d turn the game around, we were a threat for long periods of the game. Performances like the Stalybridge one happen, they were a good young side who were the better team on the day, but no-one has really turned us over which is encouraging. We’re managing to stay in games, we just need to see them out.”

Crouz has been star man in the last two matches, coming in for Dan Bramall on the left flank.

“He’s a lad who thrives on confidence and the goals might just lift him. He’s not fully there yet but they’ll help in getting him to where he wants to get to. The more goals he gets the more confident he’ll be. He can also play anywhere along the front line although he’s taken young Dan’s shirt at the moment.”

Cameroonian Crouz was not the only African to shine in a Matlock shirt last weekend with Nigerian striker Chib Chilaka making his first league start leading the line with strength and purpose.

“He’s an old warhorse who knows what the game’s all about, he’s strong and effective, he troubles defences so we’re hoping he can keep it up” Kittrick added.

The Town chief says his team will be relishing the clash at Broadhurst Park which could attract a crowd in excess of 1800. United made a slow start to their return to the NPL since being relegated from National League North at the end of last season. United have only lost one of

their last thirteen league and cup games and are currently in eighth spot, five places and five points ahead of the Gladiators who have played one match less.

“It’s a great place to go and play football. United have a good manager and some good players who are now finding their feet like I thought they would. We’ve got to go there and have a go. I’ve managed teams who have big crowds where expectations are high and teams tended to lift their game as everyone wants to beat you. There’ll be a good atmosphere, I want us to go there and enjoy our football on Saturday. It was a shame the fog came in last week, it definitely helped Grantham more than it helped us, but we need to go to FC United and play in the same way, stay positive.”

Kittrick expects to be able to name a virtually unchanged squad although midfielder Jack Rea is likely to be back in contention after illness.

Meanwhile there is a change of date for Matlock’s home Derbyshire Senior Cup quarter final with Alfreton Town. The game has been put back by seven days to Tuesday 17 December which gives Matlock a clear week to prepare for their home FA Trophy 1st Round Proper clash with Conference National Chorley on December 14. Should the Chorley game be drawn, the replay in Lancashire will take precedence and be played on that night. The Gladiators Integro Cup match at Basford has still to be arranged.

**Matlock’s luck proved to be right out when the referee abandoned their match at Granthamin the 61st minute. Not only were they winning 2-1 against ten men, but it was a rare abandonment of a Grantham home game. It was only the seventh time in their 145 years history a game had not been completed either at the Meres or at their old London Road Stadium and the first time there had been an abandonment due to fog.

The match will have to be played again later in the season. A red card for Grantham’s Charlie Ward and Pietu Crouz’s yellow card will stand but the Matlock winger’s brace of goals plus the one for Grantham debutant Kieran Wells will be scratched from the records.

Ian Richardson