A FURIOUS Mark Atkins lambasted his Matlock side after the home derby defeat to Buxton on Tuesday, their second defeat in three days against play-off rivals.
Atkins and his assistant Nick Buxton, currently serving three and two-match match touchline bans after being removed to the stand by the referee in the home defeat by Marine in January, have had a rotten few days.
Two defeats in four days have come in the same week that the club accepted an offer from League Two side Barnet for hotshot striker Ross Hannah, although the player is still mulling over the possibility of a move to the North London outfit.
On Saturday, a late goal saw Matlock return home from Kendal with a 1-0 loss, but on Tuesday, with local pride and precious play-off points at stake, Atkins raged at his team’s defensive errors plus the ‘hoofball’ tactics of the first half.
“I laid into them at half-time,” Atkins revealed. “I want my sides to play football. We were miles off what we were wanting from them in the first half. I never tell my teams to play long-ball football. We didn’t have the courage to get the ball down and play and then there was a bad error for the first goal to put us 1-0 down in a tight game.”
He was pleased with the response for the first 20 minutes after the players had received their dressing down, but unfortunately two more howlers handed the points giftwrapped to the Bucks.
“For the first 20 minutes, we were all over them and were playing the ball about ever so well. We got the penalty, which incidentally should have seen their lad get a red card, scored from it and then got the second penalty and created other chances. It was disappointing that we could not put them away.
“Then the most stupid of errors for the second goal, in which Adam Sollitt must take full responsibility, gave Buxton a lift, then we gave them a very easy third. At 3-1 down against a good side like Buxton, you’re not going to come back. At 2-1 down, the desire and determination levels went down again. I’m very disappointed with a lot of the players and when they’re doing things like that I can’t stand up and defend them.”
Some team members might just have tested Atkins’ patience a little bit too much. “I’ll be looking to bring players in for we need to try and get a win at Bradford on Saturday as we can’t go there feeling sorry for ourselves, but it’s a case of whether I can get them or if they’re available.
“We’d got ourselves into a great position but we’ve messed up the things we’ve been doing in the past couple of games. I’m very disappointed, as the fans will be, and they deserved more than we gave them against Buxton. But life goes on and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for Saturday and for the games to come.”
Matlock’s recent record against Bradford does not offer any comfort with the Avenue doing the double over Matlock since being promoted back to the Premier Division at the start of the 2008-09 campaign. Those four losses have seen Town score five times but concede 15.
“We missed Steve Warne, who had personal commitments on Tuesday, so he’ll be straight back in on Saturday,” said Atkins. “Bradford’s never an easy place to go to but we’ve got to be up for it and show people what we’re made of.”
Striker Nathan Joynes is doubtful though after coming off with a hamstring problem in the second half on Tuesday. On the plus side, young full back Ben Turner is expected to be fit again following an ankle injury which has seen him miss the last four games, although he was an unused substitute against Buxton.
The games get no easier for Matlock, who now sit in fourth, for they travel to third-placed North Ferriby United on Tuesday.
Meanwhile leading scorer Ross Hannah, whose penalty against Buxton was his 44th goal of the season, remains a Matlock Town player despite interest from a number of clubs.
“We accepted a bid from Barnet,” said Atkins after the bid became public in a Sunday national newspaper. “He was there talking to them on Friday and wanted time to think about it. That’s as far as things have got. There’s nothing else to report.”
Torquay United’s interest had become public knowledge a few days earlier when some of their supporters had posted messages on the Matlock Town website fans’ forum saying Hannah had moved to Plainmoor.
But on the Wednesday night, Hannah hit Matlock’s winner at Whitby and Atkins labelled these claims as “premature to say the least.”
A host of scouts from Football League, Championship and Conference clubs have watched Matlock’s recent games.
Finally, Atkins was presented with his Evo-Stik League Premier Division Manager of the Month award for February prior to kick-off on Tuesday.
Matlock won six games out of six and they will need to rediscover their form swiftly to maintain their play-off challenge.