‘Performances are improving’

Massiah McDonald, Matlock Town
Massiah McDonald, Matlock Town

“We’re definitely getting better” was manager Mark Atkins’s verdict as his Matlock Town side prepared to welcome Eastwood Town to the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday in a vital league game.

The Gladiators will be wanting to make this season’s designated Non-League Day one to remember with a good performance and victory against a Badgers’ outfit they knocked out of the FA Trophy just a fortnight ago at Coronation Park.

Lewis McMahon’s penalty cancelled out former Matlock striker TJ Nightingale’s opener before a debut goal from Massiah McDonald decided the contest.

Last weekend, Matlock were unlucky narrow 2-1 losers at North Ferriby United, who went to the top of the league in midweek with a 4-0 win at Stocksbridge.

“I’ve felt we’ve been going in the right direction in the past three or four games when we haven’t picked up as many points as we probably should,” Atkins explained.

“The performance at North Ferriby was very pleasing. We could have been well in front early on from four good chances which we unfortunately didn’t take, but I can only praise the lads, who overall created six great chances in the game with Ferriby scoring from probably their only two clear-cut opportunities.

“We definitely deserved something, I was very happy with our play and our desire levels in trying to get a result. The penalty for their second goal was harsh, but it’s one of those things with that decision not going for us on the day.”

Two new faces featured in the squad on Humberside.

Oscar Radford, who had a loan spell with Town from Doncaster Rovers last term, has joined on a permanent basis after leaving cash-stricken Kettering Town in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division.

Radford partnered James Lukic in central defence while forward Jordan Thewlis, who impressed in the previous Wednesday’s 2-0 friendly win against Retford United, was named as a substitute. Thewlis, who was with Joe Leesley at Scunthorpe United, has moved down the A6 from Buxton.

“We’d known about Oscar for three to four weeks but had to keep everything under wraps for we were desperate to get him in. We had to wait to see how the Kettering situation panned out.

“We know what he can do, playing regularly at Kettering had done the lad good so we had no hesitation in putting him straight in.

“Jordan has pace, gives us width, is tricky and a good finisher so he should be a good signing for us.”

Radford was forced off early in the second half with a neck injury but should be fit for the weekend ,as should recent hamstring victim Phil Roe.

Atkins hopes that, as players gradually return, with Bradley Grayson and James Ashmore set to come back in the next couple of weeks, the Gladiators can put together a run of good results and climb up the table. The injuries have been long drawn out problems but performances are getting better and players coming back will create good competition.

“Dave Rushbury [former Sheffield Wednesday and Chesterfield full back who is an expert on sports injuries] has offered to come in and help with the injured lads’ rehabilitation and get them back fitter and quicker, so we’re grateful to him.

“Starting against Eastwood, which will be a tough game, we need to get in front and get some confidence.”

Matlock will be marking Non League Day by offering free admission to season ticket holders of Football League clubs on Saturday.

“People need to present their season ticket at the turnstile,” said chairman Tom Wright. “We feel it is an excellent opportunity for non league clubs to promote themselves and the non-league game. “

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We hope that people who watch Football League sides will come down and like what they see and come baCk again to Matlock Town on a more regular basis” said Chairman Tom Wright.

A friendly game between the first team squad and the reserves ended with a 11-0 win to the senior side on Tuesday, while on the same night at the Silverlands, the matlock Town youth side beat Buxton 2-1 to earn a home tie against Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Youth Cup. This match will be played at the Reynolds stadium this coming Tuesday with a 7.45 pm start. The winners will face Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium in the 1st Round proper.

The Gladiators’ scheduled visit to Ashton United on Wednesday is off due to the Robins’ involvement in the Manchester Premier Cup.