‘We are fitter than we were this time last year’

Joint Matlock Town boss Craig Hopkins believes the Gladiators players are much fitter than they were at this point last year, despite the 4-0 loss at home to Chesterfield in the Vertu Toyota Cup last Thursday night.

In what was Matlock’s first run-out of the summer, they included two trialists plus new signings Rory Coleman and Luis Rose in their starting line up, as well as having further trialists on the bench.

But Hopkins was satisfied with what he saw from his team.

He said: ““It was always going to be difficult for us with it being our first game after only five training sessions.

“ Chesterfield had probably had 20-odd sessions and we can’t hide from the fact that they played really well. They had really good movement, are well coached and were a different class. Then they do the same thing at Buxton the following night so it was a really, really tough first game for us.

“Results are not the be all and end all in pre-season and from our point of view the lads showed plenty of fitness, they worked really hard.

“They’re much fitter than was the case this time last year. was the opportunity for us to take a look at some trialists and them to take a look at us.

“It was also great to see a large crowd (1,274) in for the game again which is a massive plus for the club.”

Attention turns now to three friendly games in five days.

Mansfield Town visit the DCJ Group Arena on Saturday (3 pm) before on Wednesday a talented Sheffield United under-23 team come to Matlock for a 7.30pm kick-off.

Sandwiched in between the home games on Monday night is a visit to Midland Football League new boys South Normanton Athletic.

“We trained well on Tuesday and will have another good session on Thursday. We aim to give 18 or 19 players as many minutes as possible in these three games,” Hopkins added.

“We’re still talking to players, it’s a matter of remaining patient.”

Jamie Yates had an ankle operation this week which is likely to keep him out until the league campaign gets under way. Holiday commitments rule out Ted Cribley, Adam Yates and Phil Barnes for the Mansfield match.

Matlock’s Evo-Stik Premier League fixtures are due to be released today (Thursday) but they know that in the Buildbase FA Trophy first qualifying round they will travel to either Tadcaster Albion or Glossop North End on October 28.

The Gladiators had a fine run in the Trophy last term, reaching the second round in a run which included victories at higher league FC Halifax and Solihull Moors before they were narrowly beaten at Barrow.

“Both are good sides,” Hopkins warned. “So it’s a tough tie for us whoever we get. Tadcaster are a good footballing side while Glossop will be strong and physical at home.”