Matlock boss Mark Atkins will be monitoring performances in the remaining five games of the campaign closely – to see who, in his view, is showing the desire to stay at the club for the 2012-13 season.
Atkins was both upset and frustrated by the Gladiators’ poor showing in the 2-0 defeat at Worksop Town last Saturday, particularly after he had praised his players, who went down with honour in the 1-0 home defeat to champions-elect Chester just seven days earlier.
He kept them in the dressing room afterwards, when he says “strong words” were uttered.
“We started quite well, but once they’d scored from the penalty we went downhill. We didn’t respond, we were poor, there was no passion, no desire. The particularly frustrating thing was that Worksop were there for the taking.
“Things needed to be said because that simply wasn’t good enough. We’d played so well against Chester and we said we’d set a standard that we mustn’t fall beneath.
“But we did and now it’s a case of this group of players showing me that they want to stay at this football club next season.
“To be honest, I’m not bothered who we’ve got to play in the remaining games, it’s about us and the players need to stand up and be counted. They need to show me and the fans that they’re good enough and have the desire to be here next season.”
Matlock’s Easter programme sees them entertain seventh-placed Marine on Saturday before travelling up the A6 for an Easter Monday afternoon derby at Buxton.
The Mariners have the best away record in the division, having won 13 and lost just two of their 19 games on the road. Their home record has let them down, badly hampering their promotion chances as ten visiting sides have won at their Arriva Stadium headquarters.
Buxton have recently climbed out of the relegation places, having taken 15 out of the last 21 on offer prior to their home meeting with Stafford Rangers last night (Wednesday).
“They’re going to be two tough games but I reiterate it’s what we do that matters” said Atkins. “Marine have done extremely well away from home and are always tough opponents and Buxton have shown vastly improved form lately and will provide their usual tough test, but our players need to rise to the challenge like they did against Chester,”
The Gladiators made just the one signing on deadline day last Thursday when they recruited former Chesterfield midfielder Ben Watkis. Atkins did not include Watkis at Worksop.
“Ben was released by Chesterfield at the end of December and hasn’t trained much since” he explained. “He’s not fully fit so he’ll continue training with us and he’ll be another body in there for the run in if needed.”
Meanwhile Lewis McMahon will remain at the Reynolds Stadium for the rest of the season after all. The on-loan Gainsborough midfielder or striker had netted four times for the Gladiators in his first month but the Blue Square North side have had a change of heart.
“We chatted to Gainsborough again and they’ve said he can stay here for the rest of the season but on a 24-hour recall if they need him,” said Atkins. “Lewis has done very well for us so far.”
Fans attending the Marine game are asked to bring with them any unwanted football kit as part of Kit Aid Weekend, a campaign initiated by Marine and then promoted by the Evo-Stik League.
Kit Aid is a charity that helps underprivileged children and adults in over thirty countries across the world.
“Fans can bring down shirts, shorts, socks, football boots, shin pads etc to the Club Shop and Kit Aid will do the rest in getting them to where they are needed” said a Matlock spokesman. “We’re delighted to join the rest of the clubs in our league in this magnificent project and we encourage fans to support it. We’ll accept kit until the end of the season.”
The Evo-Stik NPL Operations Manager Alan Allcock added “As a League we know only too well the importance of giving young people and adults opportunities through support, so please take your kit down to Matlock Town and Kit Aid will do the rest.”