Key games for the Gladiators

Adam Yates, Matlock Town.
Adam Yates, Matlock Town.

Home games on two successive Saturdays give Matlock Town the ideal opportunity to cement a midtable slot in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division table and quash any remote lingering doubts about their status in the league’s top tier.

Nantwich Town, four points and three places better off than the Gladiators, who are in 14th spot, come to the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday, followed by foot-of-the-table Burscough next weekend.

Matlock manager Mark Atkins says these two games are vital and again he wants the home crowd to play their part.

“We’ve got to go for maximum points for they’re both very winnable games for us.

“I’d like us to build on the momentum from the second half performance against FC United when I thought we played very well.”

On paper, the Nantwich tie looks the more difficult of the two matches, with Matlock having to be especially wary of the goalscoring threat of Michael Lennon.

Atkins last season rated him as the second best striker in the division, behind former Gladiators favourite Ross Hannah.

“Their strikers are a threat so we’ll need to be mindful of that. They‘re a difficult side to play against and dangerous up front but I feel it’s about us and how we perform on the day.

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“It was good to hear the home crowd get behind us in the last home game with Rushall. It was probably the first time they’d really chanted since we’ve had the new stand and Social Club and we’d like that to continue in future home games. The players have to start out right and show the right attitude, that can get the crowd going, but it makes a huge difference when everyone’s pulling in the same direction and it shows what can be achieved.”

Defender Adam Yates came on as a second half substitute against FC United of Manchester and was instrumental in a greatly improved second half performance which saw Matlock nearly claw back an interval two goal deficit, dominate andcome close to earning a point.

Yates, given a surprise midfield role, added energy and life to a side which had been outplayed in the opening half and he supplied the pass for Ian Holmes to score with half an hour to go.

Atkins may well be tempted to start him in the engine room on Saturday. He will be hoping that one or two injury and illness doubts have cleared up as he put his squad through their paces with two training sessions this week following their inactivity last weekend.

Good news came from other grounds which saw most of the teams below them lose. A relegation fight should be comfortably avoided, but the Gladiators must collect some points as quickly as they can to banish any nagging doubts.