The best Christmas present Matlock boss Mark Atkins could hope for is to see his side’s big injury list reduce as the Gladiators prepare for their home Boxing Day derby with Buxton.
A hard frost helped them last weekend when the home meeting with Rushall Olympic was called off on Saturday morning.
The Reynolds Stadium pitch was rock hard in places with sheets of ice and inspecting referee Alix Pashley had no hesitation in calling the game off.
A clear fortnight since their Derbyshire Senior Cup defeat at New Mills was just what the doctor ordered as far as Atkins was concerned.
“Saturday’s match being called off was probably a blessing as we had only 11 fit players and the bench would have been filled up with under 19s players, but we were ready to play.
“We’d got players to fill in and we’d have given as good as we got. Even then, the team we’d have put out I feel would have been good enough to win the game,” said Atkins.
Atkins went on to reveal that six defenders plus goalkeeper Jon Kennedy, who had a bout of gastro-enteritis, would have missed the Rushall game.
Kennedy is expected to recover in time to face the Bucks, but with Nick Buxton starting a two-game ban, the Town chief has brought in former stopper Adam Sollitt as cover.
The one downside from the Rushall game being off is that skipper James Lukic’s one-match ban is carried over to the Buxton game.
Lee Featherstone starts a two-match suspension and TJ Nightingale misses the first of three matches after his red card at Stocksbridge.
“We’ll train twice this week and see what we can get out of our injured players and see how far we can push them to see if we can get any of them back for the Buxton game.
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“We had six defenders and the goalkeeper out last week, but we hope that the rest ahead of Boxing Day will work in our favour.
“Oscar Radford should be back, he’s quite close now, so that’s one bit of good news.”
Atkins is expecting the usual tough test from a Buxton side who surprisingly have been in the relegation zone for much of the campaign.
Scott Maxfield has been put in charge of team affairs since management duo John Reed and Clive Freeman departed the Silverlands just over a month ago.
A massive three points came Buxton’s way last weekend as they won a seven-goal thriller at fellow strugglers Whitby, a result which should put them in good heart to face the Gladiators.
Since a 3-0 defeat at Matlock in March 2008, the Bucks have won twice and earned a draw on their other visit, so it is about time the Gladiators beat their local rivals on home soil.
“Buxton are always a tough side to face, they’ve got good players and their side’s not changed all that much.
“They’re in a false position and won’t be down the bottom end of the table for long,” Atkins warned.
“We’ll respect them but we must concentrate on ourselves.
“It’s time we started winning games. We need to win games now and try to get back up that table a bit.”
Matlock lie in tenth spot as Worksop’s 1-0 home win against Hednesford Town last weekend saw the Tigers leapfrog them in the table.