the npl

Weekly News - 5.4.22

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Weekly News - 5.4.22

It’s all to play for at the top end of the NPL Premier Division as the race for the title and the play=off spots reaches the finishing straight.

Matlock Town’s title chances must now be rated slim with Buxton at the top having an eight points lead over the third placed Gladiators with only four matches to go. South Shields could still take top spot though, as they trail the Bucks by two points.

Realistically, Matlock must ensure they claim a play off spot and they will be desperate to improve on a run of only one win in their last twelve league outings, their first chance to do so being at Basford United on Saturday who currently sit bottom of the form league, having won once in ten.

It was a third successive scoreless draw for the Gladiators who were held at home by Morpeth Town on Saturday afternoon.

Manager Paul Phillips believes that it was a game that Matlock deserved to win.

“We played as well on Saturday as we’d done for many a week, the build up play was good, it was just one of those days. Their goalkeeper’s had an outstanding game, we’ve hit the woodwork and missed sitters. Saying that we’re making chances which is good and we were solid at the back. But not to win the game like we deserved to is still frustrating.”

Phillips had called on his strikers to produce the goods this time last week and although there was a blank scoresheet again, he was more encouraged by what he saw.

“It was much better but scoring goals isn’t just down to the strikers, everyone needs to chip in. I don’t think we’ve got anyone in double figures for league goals, that needs to change and it’s something we’re already addressing with next season in mind, no matter what division we’re in. It’s plainly obvious we’re not scoring enough goals and that puts us at a massive disadvantage when you’re wanting to win a league or get in the play-offs. It’s a pity we couldn’t have saved one or two goals when we’ve scored a lot say in the game versus Witton.”

A few supporters heckled Phillips and the players at the final whistle on Saturday which has brought a response from Phillips and Chairman Bryn Apperley.

A post match tweet from Apperley said “Let’s remember where we were, where we are, and what these people have achieved for us as a town and as a club, A few people, who are entitled to their opinion, do NOT represent the thoughts of us all.”

In midweek Phillips added “They pay their money and are entitled to their opinion. I’m not hiding behind anything, for me calling the players and my management team is disrespectful. Not one of my players or staff shirked going in the bar afterwards and if people want to discuss things, we’re more than happy to speak with them.”

Matlock have not reached the play=offs since the 2006/07 season and have endured a number of seasons of mostly struggle and mediocrity. When Phillips took the managerial reins in January 2020, they were in danger of relegation and probably thankful that Covid 19 intervened to cut the season short.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done so far. I’m still a bit disappointed with games recently that we should have won but that’s football for you. It’s a learning curve. This club has come on leaps and bounds in the last twelve months. We know what we’ve got to improve on but we’ve still come a hell of a long way. Let’s embrace the players that have brought us to this position.”

Results on Saturday supported Phillips’ assertion that this is “a strange, strange league” with none of the top seven collecting maximum points. Both Buxton and South Shields drew while Warrington Town and Scarborough Athletic lost to Mickleover and Nantwich Town respectively. Whitby were held at home to a scoreless draw by Basford. Then on Tuesday, although Warrington won by the only goal of the game at Basford, Morpeth were beaten 3-2 at second from bottom Witton Albion.

“The league’s the most competitive it’s ever been, just look at recent results. We’ve not been turned over by anyone and never looked like being banjoed, but we must get more goals.”

Looking ahead to the weekend, Phillips sent one of his staff to watch the Basford v Warrington game on Tuesday, also mindful that the Gladiators host Warrington on the final day of the season.

But Basford will be at the forefront of his thinking for now, and he is surprised that the Nottingham club are down in 20th spot. But they are unlikely to go down with Witton Albion needing an amazing run of form not to join already relegated Grantham Town in a lower division next season.

“They’ve got some good players and yes, I’m surprised they’re down there and to be honest I didn’t realise that they were that low down. It’s always a tough place to visit, there’s the artificial pitch but we need to carry on our form from last week and hopefully find the goals we need.”

Warrington’s win at Greenwich Avenue put them only two points behind Matlock, joining now fifth placed Scarborough on 64 points, the Seadogs occupying the final play off position. Chasing them in sixth are coastal neighbours Whitby on 60 points while Bamber Bridge in seventh have 59 points.

Midfielders Alex Wiles and Liam King could be back in contention on Saturday along with attacker Osebi Abadaki following recent injury lay-offs.

Ian Richardson