Defence is the key for Atkins

Matt Hamshaw
Matt Hamshaw

Matlock chief Mark Atkins must surely know which part of his team needs to improve the most ahead of Saturday’s crunch home meeting with Stocksbridge Park Steels.

The Gladiators conceded three goals for a third successive match as they brought home a valuable point from Grantham on Tuesday night., y this coming hot on the heels of a 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Belper and a 3-1 home loss aginst Blyth Spartans last weekend.

And after Tuesday night’s games which saw bottom club Eastwood shock everyone by beating leaders Rushall Olympic, Frickley beat Ilkeston and Whitby collect a surprise point at North Ferriby, Matlock have the worst defensive record in the league with 21 conceded in their opening eight league matches.

“To score three goals away from home on Tuesday and only get a point is disappointing, particularly when two of them have come from set plays and the other from Jon Kennedy’s error. To be fair to Kendo, he has come out and held his hands up and said sorry,” said Atkins. “But it’s another three goals conceded and we can’t go on letting in goals like we’re doing at the minute. We should have won the game at Grantham although at 2-1 up we were so unlucky when we hit the bar. But at the back we’ve got to stand up and be counted, we did it for some of the time but when we didn’t we were punished and that will continue to happen if we don’t sort ourselves out.”

Last weekend, Matlock’s best performance of the season so far looked like yielding them three great points at home to Blyth Spartans. New signing Matthew Hamshaw, last season with Macclesfield Town and with over 300 Football League appearances to his name with Sheffield Wednesday, Stockport County, Notts County, and Mansfield Town, blasted in a candidate for goal of the season just 11 minutes into his debut.

Then in the second half with Matlock in control referee Anthony Moore shocked almost everyone by sending off Phil Roe for alleged simulation after he looked to have been fouled by Blyth’s Lee Mason. It was a second booking for Roe after a first half yellow card for a foul on the same player.

“A big decision went against us, in my opinion it was a stonewall penalty, that would probably have made it 2-0 in a game where we were playing well enough to have gone on and won it,” said Atkins. ”That decision changed the game when we’d been excellent, but the ref then going off with the injury seemed to upset us, we lost concentration and to let in three goals in nine minutes certainly isn’t good enough.”

Hamshaw was not the only new Matlock recruit for on Monday night Frickley midfielder Glyn Cotton also signed on the dotted line. Cotton played impressively as a striker in Frickley’s 3-1 defeat by Matlock at the Reynolds Stadium on September 4, netting the Yorkshire club’s goal. Cotton made his debut at Grantham when Hamshaw had to miss out due to work commitments.

“Matt’s a really good signing and he showed his quality, plus scored a fabulous goal even when not fully fit. When Glyn played for Frickley against us he was the best player on the pitch, he has energy and desire and should be a real asset to us” Atkins continued.

Both new signings should be available to take on Steels, currently in bottom spot with just two points from their first eight outings.

“Saturday’s game is no different to all of the others in the sense that every game’s a massive game” said Atkins. “The last two performances have been good but we’ve still leaked goals so to solve that if I have to change personnel then I will. I’ve spoken to a couple more players this week so we’ll see what develops. I tried to bring in Tom Denton (6’5” striker from Alfreton) on loan but was priced out by Worksop but I’m still looking, whether it be a permanent move or just a loan arrangement.”

Micky Harcourt looks set for another spell on the sidelines after coming off with a hamstring problem just nine minutes into his second game back at Grantham. Joe Leesley still has not recovered fully from the back in jury which saw him stretchered off in the FA Cup home draw with Belper and Will Dennis took a knock on his knee in midweek. James Ashmore is a month away from a return, Bradley Grayson possibly a week to a fortnight. Ben Algar, according to Atkins, is “itching to get back” after the removal of protective wear following a broken metatarsal.