Hopkins delighted with Matlock Town points haul as play-off race hots up

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

Four points from two difficult away trips cheered Gladiators joint boss Craig Hopkins ahead to this weekend’s home meeting with Marine.

Matlock have moved up two slots to eighth and still handily placed for a top five play-off spot, but they know they must be looking to collect maximum points from Saturday and Tuesday night’s trip to Skelmersdale United to maintain the pressure on their rivals.

The Gladiators again notched a last gasp winner for the second successive Saturday, with Marcus Dinanga’s 25th goal of the season earning them all three points after they had twice trailed at Rushall Olympic.

There were no goals to shout about at Grantham on Tuesday, but a valuable point was gained from a scoreless draw against a side whose last defeat was against Matlock 17 games beforehand in the FA Trophy last November.

“We’re pleased with those four points, four very good points from two very tough games,” said Hopkins.

“It was plain to see why Grantham have done so well this last three months, they’re relentless, they work so hard, their decision making’s superb, they’re very well drilled so for us it was a very good draw.

“We did well, we always battle and we worked really hard so there’s plenty to take from the game. We had two, maybe thre good chances in the first half, Marcus (Dinanga) had a good chance that he blasted over the bar, Niall (McManus) could maybe have shot when he got the opportunity and the goalkeeper’s made a great save from Paul Ennis.

“But 22 players all worked their socks off out there. Paul Ennis has again done very well, he’s sharp and a clever footballer whose sharpness will increase with each game, and our two centre backs were absolutely outstanding, Yatesy and Dwayne (Wiley) defended brilliantly.”

And Hopkins has no doubt that his deserved all three points at Rushall.

He added: “After we’d looked at the pitch and the weather we told the lads it was a game for men out there and again they worked really hard, were the better side and deserved the three points.

“We never settle for a point, we’re always thinking as to what we can do to get that chance of victory and the lads have that same mentality.

“In the last four games everyone’s worked really hard and if we can continue to do that we’ll have a great chance of being successful, don’t forget there’s plenty of time left yet, we’ve a third of our season left. We can’t always control the result, but the lads are doing what’s been asked of them.”

The return of popular goalkeeper Jon Kennedy at Grantham was a total surprise to many Matlock fans. Kennedy was named as fans player of the year in 2014/15 but left in the summer to rejoin Worksop Town.

And Kennedy says he is delighted to help his old club out having spent four “great” years with the Gladiators.

“I loved my time at Matlock and made a lot of good friends there, if anyone else had come and asked I’d have said no,” said Kennedy.

The Gladiators will be seeking their second league double of the season against Marine, having won at Crosby back in October thanks to a Michael Williams free kick.

The draw at Grantham saw Matlock reach 50 points for the season as they strive for their largest points haul for several seasons.

They have no new injury concerns for the Marine clash and will welcome back Cleveland Taylor for the trip to Skelmersdale, Taylor having completed a three match ban after the sending off on his debut against Halesowen.