Matlock Town hope to spring FA Trophy upset on holders FC Halifax Town

Craig Hopkins. Credit: Nick Oates.
Craig Hopkins. Credit: Nick Oates.
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Matlock Town will be hoping to spring an unwanted surprise on FA Trophy holders FC Halifax Town who begin the defence of their title at the DCJ Group Arena on Saturday.

The Shaymen’s Wembley triumph over Grimsby Town proved to be a consolation prize as they had been relegated to National League North on the season’s final day.

A management change saw former Matlock skipper Billy Heath leave North Ferriby United, who he had just guided to promotion via the play-offs to non league football’s top flight, and move in at The Shay.

Another former Matlock favourite then followed him from Humberside in Liam King, so there will be plenty of spice in a clash that should comfortably attract the Gladiators’ best crowd of the season.

Joint boss Craig Hopkins admits that he and fellow manager Glenn Kirkwood have not given the Trophy tie much thought yet.

“The Barwell game was our main focus” he said. “We’ll train on Thursday and get tonight out of the lads, have a bit of fun and have a big go on Saturday,” added Hopkins, who believes that Halifax will be treating the game seriously despite the attraction of an FA Cup second Round visit to Eastleigh on the following weekend.

“They’ll be treating it seriously. For after all they’re the holders and they won’t want to relinquish their hold on the Trophy easily.

“They’re a very good side, a typical Billy Heath side, I’ve spoken with him a couple of times this season, he’s doing a great job up there.

“Liam‘s there as well, he’s a great player and a good lad, Everyone in their side knows their jobs , they’re fit and strong and Billy knows what he’s going to get from his players.”

The 1-0 defeat to Barwell came just four days after most probably the Gladiators best display of the season, given the calibre of the opposition, as fabulous goals from Marcus Dinanga and Niall McManus saw off Hednesford Town by a 2-0 margin.

The Hednesford game contained potentially both the save of the season from Matlock’s Phil Barnes and the goal of the season with McManus doubling the Gladiators’ lead.

“It was a brilliant save made all the better by going upfield and Marcus getting that lovely first goal which was so massively important,” he said.

“Niall then scores a brilliant goal, he’s got great balance and excellent ball control .

“He did “the Rocastle roll” so to speak and then showed fantastic vision seeing the goalkeeper was going to his right and flicking his shot to the goalkeeper’s left.

“It was our most hardworking performance, we were still grafting in those last ten minutes, we never allowed Hednesford to play, we got our reward with the win.”

On the back of the Hednesford performance and victory, defeat at Barwell was hard to take.

Hopkins said: “They’ve done to us what we did to Hednesford, they worked very hard, were organised and made it very difficult for us so they deserved the three points” Hopkins conceded.

“They knew our strengths from the recent game at our place and for whatever reason we looked a little flat and that hasn’t happened for a while. In many ganes we’ve created seven or eight chances, tonight just possibly two.”