Glamour game for Gladiators

Buxton FC v Matlock,

Buxton FC v Matlock,

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Matlock Town stage one of the season’s glamour home games on Saturday when play-off chasing FC United of Manchester come to town.

United are currently holding on grimly to the last play-off spot with sixth-placed Hednesford Town trailing them only on goal difference.

Defeats by Buxton and Ashton United over Easter have damaged their challenge so they will be keen to get back on track at the Reynolds Stadium.

Matlock fared marginally better over the holiday period, securing a 1-1 home draw with Marine before unluckily going down 2-1 at Buxton on Monday.

Manager Mark Atkins will be hoping his side can play as well as they did in the second half at the Silverlands this weekend and he will also remind the players of their dominant second half display against United at Stalybridge on February 29.

Two goals down at the interval, the Gladiators rallied superbly but had just an Ian Holmes goal to show for their efforts.

The Gladiators are in 14th spot and are 99.99 per cent safe from relegation, but a win on Saturday would take them to 50 points with games at home to Whitby Town on Wednesday and away at Rushall Olympic on Saturday week to finish off their season.

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Atkins believes that Matlock should have reached the half century of points at Buxton but paid the price for poor defending.

“Giving away the goals in the way we did upset me because over the 90 minutes we had more possession, some good chances and it’s probably the best we’ve played for a while.

“It’s ever so disappointing to lose as both goals were down to poor defending. Buxton had three chances yet scored twice.

“I was very pleased with the performance, they gave it their all, were well up for it and dominated most of the game. Perhaps we showed naivety in trying to win the game. There are times when it’s best to settle for the draw and that’s probably what we should have done. But having said that we now have three games left and we’ve go0t to try and win them and be positive.”

Atkins answered criticism about the entertainment on offer in the Marine game by countering: “People need to realise that Marine are a very good side who have done very very well away from home.

“The plan was to keep it tight although we didn’t do as well attacking wise as I’d hoped. It was a bad error from the free kick which gave them the lead, but the lads deserve credit for not giving up and they got their equaliser.”

There was special praise from the boss for striker Nathan Joynes who has returned to the side in recent games after a knee injury which threatened to rule him out for the rest of the campaign.

“Nathan’s done great and now has two full 90 minutes over the Easter period. It was touch and go whether he’d be fit to play at Buxton but he wanted to play and did well for us, giving us a different dimension.”

The Gladiators have “three or four knocks” head of United’s visit which could attract Town’s best gate of the season, beating the 1056 who saw champions Chester win narrowly on March 24. Last season 1249 were in attendance.

Gareth Davies cut his head open and Laurence Gaughan collected a knee injury at Buxton but both should be fit. Liam King was only partially fit on Monday after his deadleg against Marine so was an unused substitute, while Paul Riley was ill. King and Riley should also be available while striker Liam Wilkin will need a fitness check after missing the last three games with damaged ribs.