Manager Mark Atkins takes a depleted Matlock squad to table toppers Northwich Victoria on Saturday hoping that his players have learned important lessons from their 2-0 home defeat against the Vics just a fortnight ago.
Then, Atkins was critical of his side for allowing Northwich to run the game pretty much as they wanted and certainly if they play as poorly again, the Vics will be inflicting a quick league double over Matlock.
“Northwich are a good side and probably the best we’ve played so far this season, so it’s going to be a difficult game, that’s for sure,” said Atkins.
“But we now know the way they play. We never competed in the home game so we’ll be looking to show people that we can compete, and it’s an opportunity for us to show we are a good side as well.”
It will certainly be a tremendous result if the Gladiators can return from Cheshire with all three points given that the complete back four that started Matlock’s second game of the season at home to Chasetown is likely to be out.
Missing through suspension is Micky Harcourt, serving a onematch ban following his two yellow cards against the Vics.
Skipper James Lukic will again be out with knee ligament trouble while Lee Featherstone collected a groin injury in last weekend’s 3-0 home FA Trophy win against Stamford.
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The remaining member of the quartet, Simon Sturdy, has not featured since that Chasetown game due to a back injury.
It looks likely that Kris Witcombe could earn a rare start at right back with Ben Algar probably being the man to fill Featherstone’s boots on the left. Oscar Radford and Adam Yates will again be the central defensive pairing.
Atkins praised on loan Doncaster Rovers defender Radford, who has given four impressive performances in a Matlock shirt so far and earned star rating against Stamford. As well as putting in a tip top defensive performance, he scored the Gladiators’ third goal with a cracking drive.
“Oscar’s been great for us and it’s good that he can play at both centre half and full back so it increases our options” said Atkins. “He’s been a very good signing and we were delighted for him when he scored the third goal and it was a fantastic goal. he fully deserved his goal through his overall performance.”
Stamford, third in Evo-Stik NPL First Division South, presented a potential banana skin but after a slow start, Matlock cruised into the next round when they face a tough trip to league rivals Hednesford Town on November 5. Like the Gladiators, Hednesford are former holders of the trophy, having won at Villa Park in 2004.
“It was a very good performance and I was very pleased with us defensively. We were never in any trouble and once the first goal went in we were comfortable.The two sendings off helped us but we played two wingers and were able to stretch them a bit more and both Ben Hunter and Ben Algar scored and put in some quality balls. Hednesford away will be tough but we’ve played there and got a draw and we’ve seen them a couple of times. We can’t do anything about the draw, but we’ll go there fancying our chances of getting through.”
Midfielder Steve Warne was recalled from Belper and was given an instant recall as well as being named as skipper.
“Steve gave us the drive and the energy that I think we’ve been missing a bit recently. The loan spell has obviously done him a lot of good and hopefully now Steve will go from strength to strength.”
Mark Haran has joined Ossett Town on a temporary basis to build up his fitness and if his knee holds up to playing matches, the veteran centre half could yet feature again for the Gladiators.
Matlock have been given a home draw in the 3rd Round of the Doodson Sport League Cup against Mickleover Sports on Wednesday November 16. Their next home game though is against Stocksbridge Park Steels on Wednesday night.