Boss wants a top half finish

Ian Holmes, Matlock Town.
Ian Holmes, Matlock Town.

Last Saturday was a good day all round for Matlock Town and now manager Mark Atkins has issued a “let’s finish the season on a high” challenge to his players.

After the encouraging second half performance in the unlucky 2-1 defeat at Buxton on Easter Monday, the Gladiators carried on from where they left off against FC United of Manchester.

Ian Holmes put Town ahead against the play-off chasing Reds, and although an Adam Yates own goal saw FC draw level before half-time, Liam King struck the decisive blow with 17 minutes left to win all three points for Atkins’s men.

Just as satisfying as the result was the bumper attendance of 1,319 as around 900 travelling fans came down to one of their favourite venues to back their side.

“I was very pleased with the way the lads went about their work,” said Atkins. “We had a game plan and went 4-3-3 to try and combat the way FC United play. We got in amongst them and didn’t let them get into their stride and we just about deserved the win.”

This was United’s third loss on the bounce inside a week but Atkins believes they will make the play-offs, their task being made all the easier due to Northwich Victoria’s expulsion from the league at the end of the season, and their ban from the play-offs. following off-the-field difficulties.

“United are a very good side and if you finish above them then you have a very good chance of promotion,” Atkins insisted.

n Continued on page 31

““I’m sure they’ll make the play-offs. but we played very well ourselves on the day. First half I was a bit disappointed as we played hoofball a little too much, but I said to the players at half-time “let’s get the ball down a bit and play” and they did.

“We created a number of good opportunities. Now the aim is to carry on in the same vein until the end of the season and secure a top half placing.”

The Gladiators played their final home match of the campaign against Whitby Town last night (Wednesday) before finishing at Rushall Olympic on Saturday.

The Pics have had a good debut season in the top flight, currently lying in ninth spot as well as reaching three cup finals.

A last-gasp penalty from Lewis McMahon gave Town a 1-0 win at the Reynolds Stadium in February.

“Rushall have done great and are a tough side to play against. It was a hard match at our place but we won and I’m confident we can go there and get something if we play like we did on Saturday,” said Atkins.

Striker Nathan Joynes is likely to be missing after his operated-on knee swelled up after two full games over Easter, forcing his exclusion last weekend. Lee Featherstone has a hamstring problem which could also force him out.

Acknowledging he has a small squad, Atkins says they deserve credit for battling on.

“We didn’t go out and bring players in around the deadline because we had the budget to consider and that is very important.

“So the players have had to battle on and some have played when not fully fit. Kris Bowler, for example, has had two knocks on his ankle plus a bad back but was still keen to pull on that blue shirt. They’ve buckled down and it was so pleasing to get a good result last Saturday.”

Fans travelling to Dales Lane on Saturday can take advantage of reduced admission prices. Adults will pay just £5 and concessions are priced at £2.50 for the final game of the season.

Matlock’s Annual Presentation Night takes place next Friday (April 27) in the Social Club. Admission is free and there will be a buffet and disco.

The Matlock Mercury-sponsored Fans Player of the Year will be announced and will be one of a number of awards made on the night.

Former Matlock striker Ross Hannah also hopes to be in attendance.