Encouraging draws against high-flyers FC United of Manchester and Hednesford Town left Matlock Town boss Mark Atkins full of praise this week.
Speaking before last night’s (Wednesday) trip to Ashton United, Atkins reckoned his side comfortably gave as good as they got throughout a testing time that also saw them face play-off hopefuls Chorley and Witton beforehand.
Atkins said: “We might not have won any of those games but we’d been in contention to win every one of them.
“The quality’s been there even though we’ve still had some lads missing, and nobody could fault them for effort in any of the matches.”
A brace from Brad Grayson earned them their point in a typically entertaining home game against United.
Then, after being harshly reduced to ten men through James Lukic’s 64th minute red card at Hednesford on Saturday, top scorer Lewis McMahon came off the bench for his first appearance since January 29 to also hit a double.
“I’m very very pleased with both the performance and the result on Saturday given the circumstances,” Atkins continued.
“The lads played well and matched a top side on their own ground and fully deserved at least a point.
“In some games there’s been a lack of quality in the final third but we’ve got four goals against FC United and Hednesford which is really encouraging and everyone played well.”
Lukic’s dismissal, however, did not go down well with Atkins.
He added:“If the referee’s going to give a penalty that’s fine, but he should have understood it was a collision and while penalties do get given for collisions and 50/50 situations, to send James off was the wrong decision.
“He couldn’t have been 100 per cent sure it was a goalscoring chance, their attacker had his back to goal in any case.
“To have the penalty given against us was disappointing as it was to go 1-0 down.
“It was a big ask for the lads but they rallied and showed great positivity.
“Lewis got a great goal but then we went 2-1 down which was a downer but we still showed great spirit to come back and score from a penalty of our own.”
Atkins paid tribute to the returning McMahon after his double earned a point at Hednesford.
Atkins gambled by introducing McMahon with 24 minutes to go but it paid off as he netted goals 20 and 21 of a fine season.
“He played a bit longer than we’d ideally have wished but at 1-0 down and down to ten men we knew we’d need someone who can put a chance away should one come our way,” said Atkins.
“Lewis is quality in that situation and it was a brilliant finish for his first just after he went on. It was a great chip and then he took a great penalty right at the end. ”
Massiah McDonald, with 15 goals in 27 appearances, will be back to face Whitby Town at the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday.
The Seasiders have collected 26 out of the last 39 points on offer in a run which started with a 1-0 home win over Matlock on December 1.
“It’ll be another tough game and we’ve got to maintain that workrate and desire that can earn you points from difficult games,” said Atkins.
Town are at home again on Tuesday in the quarter-finals of the Doodson Sport League Cup against First Division North Farsley.
Admission prices are £7 for adults, £5 for OAPs and juniors while children under 12 will pay £2.