The Evo-Stik NPL’s decision to extend the season by a week has brought a mixed reaction from Matlock Town as the unseasonal cold snap brought about two more postponed games this week.
Last weekend’s scheduled visit to Kendal was called off as despite the Cosyseal Stadium pitch passing an 8am inspection, Matlock could not travel due to their bus and some players being snowed in, and the sensible decision to postpone the game due to unsafe travelling conditions was authorised by league officials.
Then, on Tuesday, the home meeting with AFC Fylde also bit the dust with several inches of snow lying on the Reynolds Stadium arena and surrounds.
With the cold snap forecast to continue until at least the weekend, Saturday’s home clash with Worksop and even the Easter Monday trip to Buxton could be in doubt.
Gladiators chairman Tom Wright and manager Mark Atkins both took a philosophical view to the extension which, in a statement released on Monday, the league said was “not taken lightly and must not be seen as a precedent for future seasons.”
Wright said: “I think it was probably essential that the decision was made given the amount of games to be played.
“There wasn’t a choice really but it does cost us some more money in player wages so when games are played I would appeal to local people to come on down and support the lads.”
Atkins was undecided as to whether it was the correct course of action.
“A lot of teams have a lot of games to play but whether it is right I’m not sure.
“It does make it hard for us wages wise and it’s something we’ll have to face when the time comes.”
The Gladiators still have 11 league games to play plus at least two cup ties, and their season will now end at Kendal on Saturday, May 4.
Matlock have been unable to train due to the wintry conditions, but will be keen to stage the Worksop game on Saturday when a larger than average crowd is expected.
Both of their Easter opponents are challenging for a place in the end of season play-offs. Matlock will have painful memories of their visit to the Windsor Foods Stadium in December when Worksop made a lightning start, scoring five in the opening 23 minutes in a 6-1 victory.
But Matlock’s performances have improved recently and they look a more difficult side to beat.
Atkins added: “There’s been more togetherness about us in the last couple of months or so.
“Everyone’s fighting more for each other and it’s showing in the performances, even if the points return hasn’t been quite what we’ve deserved.
“I’ve been pleased with the way we’ve gone about our business, we could have won all of our recent games.”
Atkins admitted that the whiteout might have been a blessing in disguise in terms of getting top scorer Lewis McMahon back to fitness after the horror tackle on him in the Doodson Sports League Cup triumph against Farsley.
“It’s given Lewis three or four extra days to get fit,” said Atkins.
“He certainly wouldn’t have played last Saturday and would have been doubtful on Tuesday night, and most of our other injury doubts from last week should be back.”
Skipper James Lukic will miss the next game whenever it is played through suspension and that could be the Doodson Sport Cup semi-final scheduled for next Thursday (April 4) when Curzon Ashton visit the Reynolds Stadium.
First Division North play-off chasing Curzon have been given a reprieve after Witton Albion, who beat them 4-0 in the quarter-finals, were found to have fielded midfielder Michael Powell who had played for Curzon earlier in the competition.
“It’s a home tie and that’s all you can ask for in a semi-final,” added Atkins.
“They’re going well in their league so we certainly won’t take them lightly as we want to get through to another final.”
Meanwhile, striker Bradley Grayson is quitting Matlock to play in Sweden in a shock move which took Atkins by surprise.
“It’s disappointing the way things have turned out and how it’s been done, “ Atkins reflected.
“He only phoned to let me know on Friday. I’m an honest manager and have looked after him in picking him up and taking him home from matches.
“It’s obviously something that’s not been done overnight and he’s never said anything earlier. We don’t now the name of the club he’s joining but it’s obviously something he wants to do so we hope things turn out well for him.”
Striker Anthony Griffith-Junior could be out for three or four more weeks while defender Oscar Radford’s season could well be over after the horrendous leg cuts he received in a late challenge at Nantwich on February 16.
Radford had hopes of being fit for the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final against Ilkeston, but Atkins says one of the cuts has re-opened and that it could cost him the rest of the campaign.
by Ian Richardson