Atkins believes pressure is off

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Matlock Town boss Mark Atkins says the pressure is off his players as they prepare for a tough quartet of matches in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

The Gladiators face Chorley on Saturday, then FC United of Manchester, Hednesford Town and Ashton United.

But with injuries ravaging his squad, Atkins was keen to remain realistic.

He said: “Most people will be expecting us to get beaten in these games, given the opposition and our lack of numbers for one reason or another, but the fact is we don’t feel that way.”

“They’re tough games, the lot of them. In our next two games we go to Chorley which is always a tough place to go to and then we have a very much in-form FC United at our place.

“But on our day we can match anyone in the league and I’m sure the players will be going into these games believing they can win them.”

That was the case against Chorley back in October when Massiah McDonald struck the only goal to give Matlock maximum points.

“It was a tight game that night but we battled hard, defended well and we were dangerous going forward, so we’ll go there on Saturday looking for a similar performance and result.” said Atkins, who also knows his side will need every sinew of strength of character to halt FC United’s promotion charge on Wednesday with the Rebels having won their last eight league games in a row.

Matlock’s unbeaten run of seven games came to an end last Saturday as play-off hopefuls Witton Albion won 2-1 at the Reynolds Stadium.

Matlock slipped back to 17th spot and had captain James Lukic carried off with a knee injury late in the first-half.

Atkins said: “The result was disappointing as the performance was OK given we matched them and deserved at least a point.”

“There weren’t a lot of chances. We gave away the first goal through a stupid penalty and the second came from the one time we didn’t defend properly, and these small margins of error are important when you play the top teams.

“Losing James was a big blow, but Laurence Gaughan came on and did well and we hope James will be back sooner rather than later.”

Atkins also took time out to praise teenage defender James Travis after the youngster made an impressive debut at Grantham Town on Tuesday.

Travis replaced the injured Will Dennis early on in the Doodson Sport Cup fourth round tie, slotting in at left-back and producing a fine display.

And with influential skipper James Lukic already missing, Atkins was relieved that Travis was able to help provide adequate cover at the back.

He said: “It was touch and go whether I started him but really I didn’t want two inexperienced lads as full-backs.

“But he came on and played exceptionally well, was strong, held his position well, so we were all extremely pleased with him and he should be really proud with himself.

“He’s now part of the first team squad, and I now know he can do a job there at left back when needed.”

Meanwhile, the Town supremo is hoping top scorer Lewis McMahon, with 19 goals so far this season, is well down the recovery route.

He was carried off with ankle ligament damage in the 4-1 Derbyshire Senior Cup win against Borrowash Victoria on January 29.