Games against most of Matlock Town’s promotion rivals don’t worry manager Mark Atkins or his side as they got over one tough hurdle with a fine 1-0 win at second-placed Colwyn Bay on Tuesday night.
Skipper James Lukic led from the front – and the back – by scoring a late winner to make a three-hour coach trip to the North Wales coast all the more worthwhile.
The Gladiators face another tough assignment away at a Marine side this weekend, who won 1-0 at the Reynolds Stadium five weeks ago. Matlock also have to travel to champions-elect FC Halifax Town, North Ferriby United, and Kendal Town, face Buxton and Bradford Park Avenue twice, while Northwich Victoria, on Saturday week, and FC United of Manchester have to play at the Reynolds Stadium.
“On our day we’re as good as anyone in this division,” said Atkins. “And I’m not particularly worried that we’ve got to go away to a lot of teams up near the top. Every game’s now important. Often we’ve found we’re more potent away as when they’re attacking us we’re adept at catching them on the break. Anyone can beat anyone in this division and we know if we can perform to the levels we’re capable of, there’s a very good chance of us getting the three points.”
Atkins was delighted with the performance and result in midweek against a side that started the day two places and four points in front of the Gladiators, who still significantly have two games in hand on the Welshmen. The win saw Matlock leapfrog Marine.
“It’s a big game for us on Saturday, they all are,” stressed the manager. “But we can go there with confidence and belief from a magnificent all-round team performance. It was just what the doctor ordered. We started well and I felt we were always in charge.
“Nick Buxton made a fine save but it was his one and only stop. Liam King had a goal ruled out and I’m not altogether convinced that he was offside.
“We created the better openings but also all over the pitch defensively we were brilliant, getting bodies on the line, determined to keep that clean sheet. The sending off, which was totally deserved, probably helped them as we relaxed a little, but we responded well late on, scored and fully deserved our win. There were a lot of good performances, Liam King was again outstanding and he’s now a big leader in the team, which is great for me.”
Atkins thought the mad celebrations when Lukic scored the winner summed up the spirit in his squad.
“Full credit to everyone and it was great to see how we celebrated, it meant so much to everyone. They knew they’d got the three points and if we can carry on in the same vein, we’ll see how far that takes us. Marine on Saturday will be no different to Colwyn Bay, I’m hoping we now have that winning mentality which is hard to break. You can sometimes have that without playing well, but I feel at the minute we have both. I’d also like to thank the fans who travelled all that way on a midweek night. ”
Full back Ben Algar plays his last game at Marine before departing to join FC New York until September.
Assistant boss Nick Buxton may have to sit out the Marine game as, like first choice custodian Adam Sollitt, he has back trouble. Atkins says that enquiries regarding a replacement are well in hand.
“Nick’s been struggling with his back but he’s been great for us and performed superbly. But he’s on a high dose of painkillers. If Adam Sollitt’s no better we’ll have to draft someone in before Saturday.”
Atkins also wants to retain onloan Alfreton striker Anthony Wilson for at least another month. Reds’ boss Nicky Law will give Atkins an answer this week.
Last weekend’s meeting with Nantwich Town was postponed due to a saturated Reynolds Stadium pitch. The league has announced a new date of April 19, while Matlock’s trip to Ashton United will now be on April 4. Town are still awaiting news of their opponents in the semi finals of the League Cup. At present they are the only team through to the last four.