Gladiators aiming to take a step nearer to Wembley dream

Matlock Town v Corby, joint manager Craig Hopkins
Matlock Town v Corby, joint manager Craig Hopkins

Matlock Town are flying the Evo-Stik NPL flag on Saturday as the League’s remaining sole survivors in the FA Trophy.

They know they will have it all to do at Conference National promotion chasing Barrow who have had a fine FA Cup run which saw the Bluebirds bow out to League One outfit Rochdale last weekend.

They are presently just shy of the play-off spots in non league’s top tier, with their long unbeaten run since August 20 at Dover being ended by Gateshead on New Years Eve.

But both sides go into the clash at the Holker Street Stadium on the back of surprising home defeats.

Joint boss Craig Hopkins agreed that it had been a disappointing afternoon for Matlock following a 2-1 loss to Corby.

“The positive was the fantastic 542 crowd, it was an unbelievable gate and it was a shame how things turned out,” he said.

“The lads deserved that crowd for the way they’d been playing. We just hope that they recognised that wasn’t the proper us and they’re back down backing us in the next home game.

“We didn’t play anything like we can in the first half, having four or five lads missing didn’t help but we won’t use it as an excuse.

“We did though have our top four scorers out of the starting line up. The others probably had a dozen goals between them all season.

“But we still had chances. If Anthony Dwyer had stuck that one on one away in the first minute plus he had another great chance just before Corby’s second goal, it would have been a totally different story.

“Things didn’t go our way, the lads know they didn’t play well but they trained well on Tuesday and are all really up for Saturday’s game at Barrow.”

There are some interesting sub-plots in the FA Trophy clash with Ted Cribley returning to his old club if he has recovered from illness.

Hopkins is under no illusions about the size of the task his side faces at Barrow, but insists his side will travel north determined to try and pull off another shock result.

He added: “The games at Spennymoor and Grantham were tough, then we go up another level against Halifax. Solihull was another level higher but without doubt Barrow are another step up from Solihull.

“I’m good mates with Paul Cox, I was with him as a player at Kettering and we contact each other every couple of months or so.

“We know how Barrow will play, they’re big, strong and organised.

“But we’re going to go up there and do what we’ve done throughout the run and give it a good go. We’ll have a good following there who we know will get behind us and we want to give them something else to cheer about.”

Hopkins said it was unclear who would be available for the weekend, although it was confirmed that Anthony Dwyer and new signing Jenc Acar, a striker on loan from Lincoln City, are both cup tied.

Former Matlock striking legend Ross Hannah could be in the Barrow line up having moved to the Cumbrian coast outfit from Chester in the close season.

Hannah hit goals for fun for the Gladiators, breaking Bob Mountain’s record for goals in a season in 2010/11 when Hannah struck a remarkable 52 goals.

And Barrow’s manager Paul Cox has bad FA Trophy memories against Matlock. He was Mansfield Town’s manager when the Gladiators beat them 2-1 in a home replay in November 2012.

Both clubs have lifted the FA Trophy, Matlock beating Scarborough 4-0 at Wembley back in 1975 while Barrow were winners in 1990 and in 2010.