Matlock Town joint boss Glenn Kirkwood is looking no further ahead than Saturday’s trip to Farsley Celtic, as the Gladiators begin a tough five-match schedule into the new year.
All of their next five opponents are potential title winners or play off candidates.
A trip to league leaders Altrincham follows on Saturday week before local rivals Buxton are at the DCJ Group Arena on Boxing Day.
The year ends with a home meeting with fourth-placed Warrington Town and 2018 starts with a visit to second in the table Grantham Town.
Farsley are currently seventh, five points ahead of the Gladiators, and after winning promotion from the First Division North via the play-offs, have made a solid start to life in the top tier and Kirkwood takes little notice that the Celts have lost their last two league games to Sutton Coldfield Town and Hednesford Town.
Kirkwood said: “They’ve come up and done really well despite losing their top scorer (James Walshaw to Scarborough Athletic), but they’ve got a good replacement (Nathan Cartman from Darlington).
“They might have lost their last two matches but they’re a good side. We had a big sticky patch. Farsley will be eager to get out of it and be wanting the win just as we are.”
After the cold snap caused last weekend’s home clash with Rushall Olympic to be postponed, Kirkwood is hoping his troops can rediscover the encouraging form which before the enforced break saw them beat Halesowen and Lancaster and play well in a narrow Derbyshire Senior Cup defeat at Alfreton.
“We were brilliant at Lancaster but that’s gone now and we have to look ahead to Saturday,” he said. “The lads have trained hard, the weather looks as if it’ll be okay for Saturday and hopefully we’ll be on. We wanted to play last Saturday with confidence being high, and with us playing well, so it was a blow that it was off as we wanted to carry on the momentum and climb that table.”
Striker Ricky German has been recalled by Chesterfield and although Kirkwood added there was nothing concrete, there may be a new player in for Saturday.
“Ricky did really well for us, he’s a good lad who will do well in the future,” said Kirkwood.
Jamie Jackson therefore looks likely to partner Shaun Harrad in attack.
On the injury front, Ted Cribley’s shoulder injury, which looked likely to see him sidelined for six weeks, is not as bad as first thought but long standing absentee Marc Newsham looks to be still some way off a return.
Speaking on Tuesday night, Kirkwood added: “We’re hoping Ted can do a bit of training on Thursday and while Saturday might be a bit too soon for him, we’re hoping he’s not too far off a return, Marc’s ankle is taking some healing and it could be some while before he’s back.
“We all feel for him, he’s popular in the dressing room and a cracking lad, so it’s really tough for him but he needs to stay strong and get it right.”
Matlock this week have been handed a home draw against Hednesford in the Integro League Cup.
Kirkwood said: “They’re flying at the moment but we’ve got to be happy with a home draw. The tie is to be played on Tuesday, January 30.”