Ross Hannah has surely hit legendary status at Matlock Town as his hat-trick in Easter Monday’s game at Buxton saw him shatter Bobby Mountain’s club record of 49 goals in a season.
Hannah hit three goals to take his total to an amazing 52 in league and cup and he will have the further honour of retaining the Evo-Stik Premier Division’s Golden Boot award. Hannah has hit 35 of his goals in the league, seven more than his nearest challenger, Marine’s Jamie Rainford.
Seven of his 17 cup goals came in a 10-0 demolition of Bedworth United in the FA Trophy last October, just one highlight in a season to remember for the former Belper striker, who passed the century of goals in Matlock’s colours with another hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Marine on February 26.
Not surprisingly, manager Mark Atkins is a big admirer of Hannah, was full of praise for his star striker and had an important message for Matlock fans.
“It’s a fantastic achievement and his hat-trick was a great one. But Ross will be the first to say his teammates have helped him enormously and we’ve had the knack of playing a certain way to create the chances for him. He totally deserves all the praise he’s been getting. He’s worked his socks off all season and has scored a lot of marvellous goals. Everyone’s delighted he’s got the record.
“I’ve spoken with Ross again this week and have not ruled out the possibility of him staying at Matlock. That new contract he’s been offered is there waiting for him as long as he wants it. But I would think he’ll wait a couple of weeks or so to see what offers come in and that’s perfectly understandable.”
Atkins was pleased to see Matlock finally overcome Buxton at the sixth attempt in the league under his stewardship. The Gladiators also ended any hopes the Bucks had of claiming the final play-off slot.
“It was a good win and fully deserved in the end. They put us under a fair bit of pressure in that first half and we were probably lucky not to have been behind. But once we got to grips with things in the second half, I thought we were excellent and showed a lot more energy than Buxton.”
Explaining the much-improved second half performance Atkins continued: “We had a good long chat at half time and we talked about a few ways we thought we could upset Buxton, but the main thing we emphasised was that we needed to stand up and be counted.”
After looking odds-on to qualify for the play-offs at the end of February, Matlock’s final position of 11th has to be counted as disappointing but Atkins preferred to look at the positives from the campaign.
“I don’t think we underachieved but we did get ourselves in a great position and couldn’t carry it through. I think we’d have taken a top ten position at the start of the season, but it’s disappointing given we were second at the end of February. We finished seventh last season but were never in a position to challenge for the play-offs. But the league’s a lot stronger this season and there’s not a lot between second and the likes of Northwich just below half way.
“The club’s in a far better state now with the new stand and Social Club and it’s really important that peoples’ efforts are recognised. This last season, the playing side has been the second most important thing, but next season the football side has to be the be all and end all.”
Atkins revealed all the current players have been asked to stay on next term.
“All of our contract players have been offered a year’s extension and that includes Ross Hannah, and all of the non contract players have been asked to return as well.”
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Of course it’s up to them whether they do so. But I’ll still be looking for fresh players so we can have a really good go next season.”
The manager also revealed that rumours about goalkeeper Adam Sollitt retiring are at present unfounded.
“Adam’s not said anything. I spoke to him after Monday’s game and I said to him that he’s a long time retired. His back’s been giving him some trouble but I said the best thing he could do was to rest it and then try again and as far as I’m concerned he’ll definitely be back next season.”
The play off games see Bradford host FC United of Manchester while Colwyn Bay entertain North Ferriby United, bioth matches being scheduled for tonight (Thursday). Relegated from the Premier Division are Retford United, Ossett Town, Hucknall Town and Burscough. At present there is only one team definitely promoted to the top tier, Division One South champions Barwell.
Consolation for Matlock in their home defeat to FC United last weekend came from the attendance of 1,249, their highest league attendance for many years, and certainly since their meeting with the Reds on a Sunday afternoon two seasons ago, when 1038 were present. The game was also watched by David Bernstein, the new independent chairman of the Football Association who was the Gladiators’ special guest. Bernstein is especially interested in grass roots issues and was reported to be impressed by what he saw as both sides showed what Evo-Stik League football is all about, on and off the field.
Supporters are reminded of the club’s annual presentation evening which takes place in their new club building on Friday, May 6. Admission is free, which includes food and karaoke disco from 8 pm, although the premises will be open at their usual time of 6pm.