As must win games go, Saturday’s clash with Halesowen Town at the Autoworld Arena is pretty high on the list for Matlock Town.
Last weekend’s 1-0 home defeat by Whitby Town saw the Gladiators slide down to third bottom with only goal difference separating them from bottom spot, currently occupied by Derwent Valley rivals Belper Town, despite the Nailers pulling off an astonishing first ever Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division win by thrashing Witton Albion 5-0.
In between the Gladiators and the Nailers lie Halesowen, last season’s First Division South title winners, tipped by many to do well.
But Halesowen now might be starting to find some form with two cup wins in the last week.
Veteran striker Isyden Christie scored a double hat-trick in the Yeltz’ 7-1 humbling of Ellistown and Ibstock before in midweek Halesowen overcame a Coventry City XI by the only goal of the game in the Birmingham Senior Cup.
So it's a pressure situation for everyone at the club and manager Mark Atkins, under fire on social media sites, knows the importance of Saturday’s match which even at this early stage of the season, looks to be a six pointer.
He said: “It’s a vitally important game particularly in our present situation when we’re struggling for points and goals. Nobody likes not winning games and being at the bottom of the league, but we have to keep going and keep believing things will go our way. Most importantly the players have to stand up and be counted.”
Goals are something of a rare commodity for Matlock who failed to score for the fifth time in ten league outings against Whitby. Of their nine league goals, six have come in two games, the 3-1 win over Barwell and 3-3 draw at Belper.
“If you don’t score then you don’t win games and extra pressure comes,” added Atkins. “Whitby had one good chance and scored from it, it was a poor goal from our point of view as we gave away a daft free-kick and then couldn’t clear it. We know we didn't play that well against Whitby but we had two or three good chances and we were unlucky with one or two of them, particularly the Jamie Yates one which hit the lad on the goal line. They’re the kind of chances that need to go in for us and on another day they might have done but we do need to pressurise the opposing goalkeeper more.”
Atkins had the squad down at the Autoworld Arena on Tuesday where they watched a DVD of the Whitby game.
He added: “We discussed true game in detail and the players know where they’re going wrong, so it’s up to them now to go out on Saturday and show they’ve learned from these mistakes.
“What we need to do is get in front in games, they’re all important games now and really there’s nothing in the league as yet. We’ve got to get on with things and improve in both boxes.”
Unfortunately for Atkins, current fans player of the year David Haggerty remains a doubt and he is joined on the injured list by top scorer Danny Holland, who wore the captain's armband against Whitby following the omission from the starting line up of skipper Liam Needham. Both are rated as ‘touch and go’ for Saturday.
On Tuesday, Matlock travel to Grantham Town before on Saturday week they visit Witton Albion, two more big games for Atkins' men in a challenging season to date.
The Witton game replaces the scheduled trip to Ashton United with the Tameside club in FA Cup action.