Don’t be surprised if there are a couple of changes to the Matlock Town team that takes on Marine at the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday as Mark Atkins’s men aim to return to winning ways following defeat at Chasetown on Tuesday.
And it’s not really down to players doing a lot wrong. Fatigue could be the reason, as Atkins hinted after the trip to Staffordshire which saw the Gladiators’ winning run come to an end at the fifth time of asking.
“I thought long and hard about making one or two changes before the game,” Atkins admitted. “But some players had got stuck in traffic on the way and didn’t arrive until ten past seven. In the end, I kept the same side and, in hindsight, maybe I should have followed my instinct. “Some have played a lot recently, especially after the bug that’s been going about. Some have felt unwell during the past week or two. But that isn’t an excuse for losing the game. It’s a disappointing result but not the end of the world.
“We never really got going, Chasetown played very well and closed us down very effectively. We played too many long balls and for some reason didn’t seem to have the confidence to play like we can. We gave it a right go in the second half but we didn’t really deserve anything. But given recent results, I can’t be too critical of the lads.”
Matlock would have ended the night in second spot had they got at least a draw, but Ross Hannah’s 31st goal of another brilliant season was not enough.
“Ross has been fantastic again this term. What can you say when a lad has got more than 30 goals at this stage of the season?
“But it’s not just his goals, it’s his workrate and determination, his movement is excellent. He’s improved no end since I came to the club and all credit to him. He just loves playing for this club and appreciates the help he gets from his team mates plus the backing from the supporters.”
Matlock remain in third spot, just a point behind second-placed Colwyn Bay who they visit next weekend. But the Gladiators have three games in hand. If Matlock can better Bay’s result at the weekend when the Welsh side travel to Ossett Town, they will belatedly rise to the current runners-up slot.
But Atkins knows that Marine are always a tough nut to crack and if Marine want to maintain their play-off challenge they will need their impressive away form this season to continue.
“It’s always a tough game when you play Marine,” Atkins warned. “We’ll need to be on top of our game. The lads know we didn’t play well in midweek, now it’s a matter of putting that behind us and bouncing back on Saturday.”
Last weekend, Matlock’s fourth league win on the trot came when fellow play-off rivals Worksop were beaten 1-0 thanks to Hannah’s 21st minute decider.
“It was a game that neither side wanted to lose, given our positions in the table, so there was tension and nerves out there. But it was a tremendous result for us,” Atkins continued. “We totally deserved the victory and credit for that goes to the players who simply worked so hard to stop Worksop from playing.
“We changed the team slightly and played our most experienced players. We’d got energy in midfield and Adam Sollitt didn’t have a save to make in the 90 minutes.”
Dene Cropper is to play games for Northern Counties East League First Division side Shirebrook Town to maintain match fitness.
Atkins revealed he had also received an enquiry from an Evo-Stik League club for Cropper, but emphasised the striker is still very much part of his plans and it is an arrangement to benefit the clubs and the player.
“I told the manager that if he wanted him he would need to put in seven days’ notice of approach. But I’ve spoken to Dene and he doesn’t want to go. He needs games to build up his fitness after being ill over Christmas and his knee complaint means that he’s unable to train properly on certain surfaces.
“So the best way to get him fit is for him to play games for Shirebrook when we’re not playing. That suits both Dene and the club.”
One player having an enforced rest soon is Gareth Davies.
He will be available on Saturday but then begins a three-match ban after his dismissal against North Ferriby.
The Gladiators have been drawn at home to Barwell in the last 16 of the League Cup with the tie scheduled to take place on February 1.