Atkins: Players have to improve

Lewis McMahon
Lewis McMahon

“Players have to start doing their jobs” is the message from manager Mark Atkins as the Gladiators conceded a last-gasp equaliser at home to Stocksbridge Park Steels to give away two extra precious points.

Leading on Saturday from Lewis McMahon’s 60th minute penalty, his sixth goal of the season, there were literally seconds left when Brett Bowden-Lovell headed Steels level from a corner.

“I was very disappointed that we didn’t take the three points for we were well in charge for 75 per cent of the game” said the Town boss.

“We needed that second goal to kill the game off and we had a number of chances to do so that we didn’t take.

“Then we concede from another setpiece after we’d spent nearly an hour in training on Thursday working on defending such situations. It’s down to people doing their jobs, everyone had a player to pick up and one person didn’t pick their player up and the ball’s in the back of the net.”

Atkins agreed that Matlock’s performance never reached the heights of their encouraging display against Blyth Spartans in their previous home game, when they were unlucky 3-1 losers. I wasn’t happy with our tempo in the first 45 minutes.

“Stocksbridge had come to defend and try and catch us on the break. We were too slow but managed to increase the tempo in the second half.

“We didn’t play as well as we did against Blyth but you’ve got to take each game on its merits.

“We should still have won the game, we didn’t take our chances and then we went too deep and conceded the equaliser.

“We’ve only ourselves to blame, I’ll say it again, the players have got to take more responsibility out there on the pitch for things have been happening that should not be happening.”

Atkins and the team have come in for criticism from disgruntled fans in the season’s opening weeks.

“People are entitled to their opinion and we‘ve got to take the criticism on the chin,” Atkins admitted.

“I feel we should have done better in every game we’ve played, but the players haven’t performed.

“The only thing I’ll say is that I haven’t been able to change personnel quickly because of the number of injuries we’ve had but hopefully people will be coming back in the next two or three weeks, so places will be up for grabs.”

Will Dennis, Ryan Laight, Gareth Davies and Joe Leesley could all be in line for recalls in Saturday’s FA trophy trip to Eastwood Town. Micky Harcourt is rated as “touch and go” for the tie.

Laurence Gaughan should be back in training next week with James Ashmore being out for possibly two or three more weeks.

Bradley Grayson has trained but has felt a reaction in his hamstring injury, so he will not be rushed back.

Meanwhile Atkins watched long term absentee Liam Wilkin play for Retford United at Worksop Parramore on Tuesday, with the striker having the all-clear to resume playing after damaged ribs and a bruised lung.

Playing for Retford on dual registration is part of Wilkin’s return to the Gladiators first team squad.

Atkins warned that, in spite of Eastwood having a worse start than Matlock to their league campaign, their recent results, including a win over then-leaders Rushall Olympic, suggest that a hard match is in prospect at Coronation Park.

“They’ve had a couple of good results after a poor start, we’ve had them watched and they’ve played well so make no mistake, it won’t be easy, a local derby, a cup match so we’ve got to be up for it and put up a good show.”

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The Gladiators chief has an offer in for a striker on loan but is in competition with a number of clubs for his signature. He will also be looking at a trialist in tonight’s (Thursday’s) training session and may offer him terms.