A change of heart from a retired goalkeeper has given Matlock Town a major boost and already helped them to three points and a clean sheet.
Phil Barnes has returned to the club, just a week after he announced he was hanging up his gloves.
The experienced stopper was back between the posts for Matlock’s 1-0 win against Mickleover on Tuesday.
Gladiators joint boss Glenn Kirkwood said Barnes contacted him over theweekend saying he wanted to return to the DCJ Group Arena.
“Phil’s back full time and we’re all absolutely delighted,” said Kirkwood.
“He rang to speak to me last Sunday and told me he was missing it and he was regretting saying he was finishing.
“In the time he was away he’d had three or four offers from clubs at a higher level but he said his loyalties lay with Matlock. He loves it here, he loves the place and him coming back has lifted everybody.
“When we thought we’d lost him it was a terrible blow – he’s a big character in the changing room and on the pitch
“He’s also popular with the lads and the supporters so we’ve welcomed him back with open arms.”
Barnes was named as both fans and players player of the season in his first campaign with the Gladiators and it is perhaps no coincidence that Matlock kept their first clean sheet in six games against Mickleover.
Matlock were desperate for the win against their Derbyshire rivals.
Just three weeks ago, they were three minutes away from being top of the league but since then results have taken a downward spiral with five successive defeats.
Two errors were costly last weekend as Whitby won 2-1 at the DCJ Group Arena in a game Matlock certainly did not deserve to lose.
“We really deserved the win against Whitby but the difference between Saturday and Tuesday was not making mistakes” said Kirkwood.
“The back four were excellent against Mickleover and the team, to a man, all worked their socks off.
“Mickleover are a really good footballing side so we’re delighted to get the win but there’s a feeling of relief more than anything. The last two weeks have been so hard, all our effort goes into Saturday and Tuesday each week, Hoppo and me put our heart and soul into it.
“We should have won four out of those five games we lost but luck went against us. The Mickleover win was down to pure grit and determination.”
Kirkwood also praised the contribution of coach Danny Cox, who missed the whole of the losing run due to being on honeymoon but was back warming up the squad on Tuesday.
Kirkwood added: “Having Coxy back’s massive, people don’t realise just what he does behind the scenes, he’s part of what we do and how we do it, he’s the glue between the lads and us.”
Now Matlock prepare for a third home match in a week as Marine visit the DCJ Group Arena on Saturday.
“We’ll train hard and prepare as normal. We want to win on Saturday and get climbing that table” said Kirkwood.
Injuries continue to be a concern with Ryan Wilson (hip) added to the casualty list.
“It looks like he’ll be out for one or two weeks, Marc Newsham’s ankle looks like being three or four weeks and Ted Cribley’s having intensive treatment for the trapped nerve in his back but Michael Williams could train on Thursday and Mark Mullins says he’s not too far away.”