A SECOND successive defeat and below par performance, plus an unwanted injury to captain James Lukic, has convinced Matlock boss Mark Atkins that his squad needs freshening up.
League leaders Northwich Victoria were 2-0 winners at the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday when Matlock never forced visiting goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe into a serious stop.
Town’s afternoon had begun badly when news leaked of Lukic’s knee ligament injury, which is likely to keep him out for two to three weeks.
It got worse with the performance and was compounded by Micky Harcourt’s harsh red card midway through the second half.
On the Lukic injury, Atkins commented “He’s the type of lad you’ll always miss and when you have a relatively small squad like we have, he becomes a massive loss. He’s been our best player by a mile this season so losing him is a big, big blow.”
The Matlock players were a long time emerging for their post-match refreshments after being comfortably beaten by the Vics.
“The better side won on the day, we can have no complaints” Atkins conceded. “We had four or five players not at the races and against a side like Northwich, you simply can’t afford that.
“We didn’t show enough determination, we were too open and very wasteful in possession. The players didn’t do what we asked them to,. Northwich got the upper hand, got the two goals as we were over-run in midfield.
“We made a tactical decision to bring on Kris Bowler. We took Chris Bettney off, but to be honest, it could easily have been one of four or five. At least we then had someone on who would make tackles.
“Players are currently not doing themselves nor the team justice and that can’t continue.
“Depending on finance, I’ve got one loan deal pending and if I get the green light then that could go through. I’ve also got two sevenday approaches in for players. Now is the time to bring in some fresh blood.”
Atkins believed Harcourt’s dismissal was not warranted.
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“He won the ball with a fair challenge but the referee, who was poor all afternoon didn’t see it that way and he probably reacted to their players. The referee though wasn’t the reason we lost the game.”
On the playing front, Steve Warne’s loan to Belper Town has been extended for a further month but the Gladiators have insisted on a 24-hour recall clause. Meanwhile striker Lee Whittington, who has rarely featured in the last three weeks, is also at Christ Church Meadow as he aims to build up his match fitness.
“Lee doesn’t want to leave us but asked if he could go somewhere to get some games in. Belper asked about him and we felt it was in Lee’s and our best interests for him to go there and get some playing time in” said Atkins.
Matlock take a break from league action this weekend when they host Evo-Stik NPL First Division South Stamford in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy. The Daniels are currently in third spot and well placed for an assault on top spot in spite of losing manager Simon Clarke to Worksop Town. Former Hucknall boss Tommy Brookbanks took over the hot seat this week and his first game in charge will be against the Gladiators. He will be keen to avoid a second cup defeat to Matlock this season as Matlock knocked Hucknall out of the FA cup while Brookbanks was still at Watnall Road in September.
“The FA Trophy’s a competition we want to do well in and they’re going well in their league. I want us to be fully up for a very important game” said Atkins who stated that there would be changes to the Gladiators line-up.