Matlock manager Mark Atkins reflected on a disappointing league season this week as the Gladiators ended their 2012/13 Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division campaign in a lowly 17th spot.
The consolation was that they finished a huge 12 points ahead of second-bottom Kendal Town who completed their difficult season with three wins on the trot, including a final day 4-1 success against Matlock.
Even had the usual four clubs gone down, there still would have been a nine-point gap between Matlock and the relegation zone.
Atkins, however, acknowledged the league displays were not good enough, in contrast to their cup form which saw a tremendous run in the FA Trophy, including beating Blue Square North Stalybridge Celtic and this season’s Conference Premier champions Mansfield Town, being runners-up to Ilkeston in an unlucky last-gasp Derbyshire Senior Cup final defeat and reaching the Doodson League Cup semi-finals.
He said: “It’s been a tough season for a number of reasons.
“The league position isn’t great, I certainly expected us to finish higher at the start of the season. Injuries have played a big part although I won’t use this as an excuse, while this season we’ve had to keep our eye on the budget more than in previous seasons.
“Given all that though, I still felt we had enough quality to finish further up the table.”
Atkins praised the attitude of his players who absorbed a wage cut towards the end of the campaign.
“The players showed a fantastic attitude to stay given the budget cuts and I have to say that the fans and people behind the scenes have also been tremendous,” he said.
“When we had the Trophy run, the support was absolutely tremendous and in the last couple of months people have come up to me and have told me they appreciate what we’ve been trying to do in difficult circumstances.”
On the injuries which have blighted virtually the whole campaign, Atkins said the most frustrating aspect was that Matlock’s contract players seemed to suffer more than most.
He added: “I refuse to use the injuries as an excuse but it’s worth pointing out the worst thing about all this is that it’s been the contract players who have mostly been struck down and you just can’t go out and get someone as good like you can with the non-contract lads. This has an effect on the budget.”
Matlock hold their presentation evening in the Gladiators Social Club on Friday night. Doors open at 7pm, admission is free and there will be a disco and buffet.