Boss Atkins bullish over play-off hopes

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Their play-off hopes may be fading but Matlock Town boss Mark Atkins insists that the fight goes on.

Two precious points went astray as a two-goal lead was squandered at home to relegation-threatened Whitby Town on Saturday, a result which saw the Gladiators slip down to seventh spot.

But Tuesday night brought about a second successive defeat for fellow challengers Worksop Town, which acted as evidence of other teams starting to feel the heat.

As for his Matlock side, Atkins admitted their task is now a lot more difficult than it was in early March with their point against the Seasiders ending a run of four straight defeats.

He said: “We’ve definitely made things a lot harder for ourselves than was the case three weeks ago. But there’s still seven games left and 21 points to play for and we need to pick up as many as we can.

“There’s no point in us feeling sorry for ourselves. What has happened has happened. But I agree that we seem to keep on pressing the self-destruct button.

“Up to the Buxton game we’d been excellent defensively and had the second best record in the division. But at present we keep on giving away cheap goals and teams are finding it too easy to get through us.”

Whitby was a case in point as Matlock looked to be cruising as half-time approached with a 2-0 lead, but by the interval two soft goals had put Whitby level.

Atkins does not believe in the curse of the Manager of the Month award with March seeing the Gladiators collect a miserly five out of 21 points on offer after six wins out of six had earned him the February accolade.

“ That’s all in people’s heads, the truth of the matter is that we’ve not shown the mental toughness, we’ve crumbled, we’ve not stood up to be counted,” he said.

“The lads look nervous when they get in front. Even at 2-0 on Saturday the nerves seemed to set in, they concede one and then things get worse.”

Leaders

Matlock could not face a more difficult task on Saturday when they travel to The Shay to take on runaway leaders and champions elect FC Halifax Town. But Atkins feels that his side should go there with a positive attitude.

“We’ve nothing to lose and people will be saying that Halifax will beat us, but I feel we’ve got the chance to go there and express ourselves and play without fear,” he said.

“Their position tells you that they are clearly the best side in the league, but we’ll go there looking to win the game as we always do.”

Monday night then sees Matlock visit Ashton United in the Evo-Stik League Challenge Cup semi-final.

Atkins says the competition has always been high on his agenda and Matlock will be going all out to earn a place in the final against either Northwich Victoria or Bradford Park Avenue.

He said: “This game was always important and and we’d still have been treating this game seriously if we’d been better off in the league.

“At the end of the day there’s a chance of getting to a cup final and then picking up some silverware.”

Atkins is hoping the hamstring injury which has kept top scorer Ross Hannah out of the last two games clears up in time for the weekend.

He added: “Ross wasn’t close enough on Saturday but we’ve a full free week ahead of Halifax so hopefully we’ll see some improvement.

“We’ll assess him on Thursday to see how he responds to various situations and take it from there.”

Atkins does not foresee any additions to the ranks ahead of tonight’s (Thursday) transfer deadline but he did bring in defender Paul Sykes from Ossett Town last Friday.

He said: “Paul’s a big strong lad who I knew from my time at Stalybridge and who’s been around the non-league scene at this level and the one above for a long time.

“He asked if he could come here for the rest of the season and really it was a no brainer as he can play in a number of positions and just needs to get his full match fitness now.”

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