Whitby clash the focus for Matlock - Hopkins

Matlock Town joint manager Craig Hopkins
Matlock Town joint manager Craig Hopkins
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Matlock Town joint boss Craig Hopkins this week stressed the importance of getting back on track in the Evo-Stik NPL after they again served up a huge cup shock last weekend.

The Gladiators won 2-1 at Conference National Solihull Moors in the FA Trophy First Round to set up a difficult clash at Barrow in the next round. Barrow overcame Harrogate Town in a replay on Tuesday night with former Matlock favourite Ross Hannah opening the scoring.

But between now and when the clash at Barrow takes place on Saturday, January 14, the Gladiators have five league matches plus a Derbyshire Senior Cup quarter final visit to the Proact Stadium to take on Chesterfield.

Matlock are currently in tenth spot with Hopkins well aware that his side had lost their last three away matches on league business. Two successive home games are now on the horizon, albeit tough ones, against third placed Whitby Town on Saturday and second in the table Buxton on Boxing Day.

Hopkins said: “We can put the FA Trophy away for a bit now, although I said to Kirky on Monday that I was still buzzing after Saturday. The lads went out for their Christmas do on Saturday, enjoyed themselves and then came in on Tuesday for a good training session. We’re not thinking about Buxton yet, all of our focus has to be on getting three points against Whitby on Saturday. We played well up there and we told the lads if they play like that they’ll win more than they lose, but it is three losses in the league away from home on the trot so we need to pick our league form up.”

Hopkins went as far to say that, at present, they are not even looking at the play-off spots.

“We’re not looking that far forward, we want to keep improving and improving our league form,” said Hopkins. “Some people might say we’ve become one of the teams to beat with our cup results but at the moment there’s nine teams above us in the league and over twenty league games so far we’ve been a bit up and down so we need to be more consistent. There’s no way we’re getting carried away.”

The Gladiators expect to be at full strength for Saturday with Dwayne Wiley suffering no adverse reaction to his hamstring complaint while Adam Yates, missing at Solihull following the birth of his first daughter on Friday evening, and Ted Cribley, who had to work last weekend, will be added to last weekend’s squad.

Matlock’s win at Solihull was a comfortable one as goals from Nico Degirolamo and Marcus Dinanga had the Gladiators two goals in front before Solihull had experienced debutant striker Luke Rodgers sent off and substitute Harry White netted a consolation effort in the third minute of ten eventually added on by the referee.

“It was a superb day, everyone worked really hard, gave everything and did everything we asked of them,” said Hopkins. “We had Adam Yates and Ted Cribley out and Curtis Morrison had gone back to Chesterfield, but we’ve got sixteen good lads as we proved up at Spennymoor in similar circumstances. The lads who came in, Nico, Jamie Yates and Marc Newsham were all superb.” Hopkins had plenty of praise for the hundred Matlock fans who travelled to Solihull.

“Their support throughout the game was really tremendous and is greatly appreciated by us all. Days like that when players, managers and fans can celebrate together as we did at the end of the game are ones you simply don’t forget and we want more of them.”

“I’m sure there’s a few people out there who used to come down but haven’t been back for six months or whatever for some reason. I bet they’re thinking shall I, shan’t I, well now’s the time to take the plunge again, the lads are working their socks off and giving everything, the more people we can get through the turnstiles the better.”

On the Chesterfield game in the Derbyshire Senior Cup Hopkins remarked “ It’s a nice draw and one we’ll all be looking forward to, but as I’ve said, there’s important league games to address first.”

Hopkins also had a word of congratulation for league rivals Stourbridge, who beat League One outfit Northampton Town 1-0 at the War Memorial Ground to reach the Third Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

“It’s a superb achievement, we’re all really pleased for them as they’re a lovely club, everyone at Matlock Town sends them our most sincere congratulations.”