Matlock Town joint boss Glenn Kirkwood was over the moon following a great few days for the club.
They ended a run of three league defeats on the bounce with a win against Halesowen Town last Saturday before on Tuesday a dramatic penalty shoot out win saw them overcome Alfreton Town to reach the Derbyshire Senior Cup final.
And Kirkwood was quick to heap full praise upon his players for the success.
“On Saturday to play as we did and be with ten men for over an hour speaks volumes for their fitness, togetherness and will to win,” he said.
“It’d been a hard couple of weeks or so with those three defeats, something they hadn’t experienced.
“At 1-1 we could have sat back and accepted the score but we weren’t happy with the point. Leave the cup aside now, we want to be up that league table, challenging, we looked like the team with eleven men,it was a very good team performance.”
It proved to be a sad personal debut for the experienced Cleveland Taylor, formerly with Bolton, Carlisle and Scunthorpe amongst others, who was signed from Barwell on Friday.
Taylor was harshly sent off for an accidental high boot on Ethan Delaney on 27 minutes and will now miss Matlock’s next three games.
He was one of two signings with striker Paul Ennis arriving from Curzon Ashton to make a brief substitute appearance before his full debut against Alfreton,
“Cleveland is a born leader, he has won a title at this level with Corby previously and will be a great player for us, his know how and experience will rub off on everyone else,” said Kirkwood.
“Paul Ennis is a hell of a good player, has a proven scoring record in Conference North and we’re happy to have him around.”
The Gladiators will face Gresley in the Senior Cup Final in a repeat of the 2015 final they won 7-0 at the Proact Stadium.
Added Kirkwood: “It was a great comeback from 2-0 down, the lads showed great desire to get bqck in the game.
“Alfreton are a big strong experienced team and are difficult to play against like Barrow and Halifax, but we played all of the football, we looked like a good side and did enough to win inside the 90 minutes,
“Marcus Dinanga scored a brilliant hat-trick, Phil Barnes made two fantastic saves before the shoot out and was then brilliant, he’s the best goalkeeper in our league, he’s a top man, a true professional, a top goalkeeper who deserves all the dredit he gets.
“Andrew Wright has been magnificent in the last two games, he’s a winner and his attitude is bang-on, But everyone played their part.”
Kirkwood was especially relieved to get through the shoot-out as were Matlock whose recent record in penalty competition rivals that of England’s footballers.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be in the final,” he said, “Hoppo (Craig Hopkins) and me have been doing this about nine years now and we’d never reached a final before and never won a penalty shoot out so that’s a monkey off our backs, so we’re really chuffed.
“We’d been in charge of the worst cup teams ever, but it’s all change this year with our runs in the FA Cup and FA Trophy as well.”
Two tough away matches now await the Gladiators who are currently tenth in the table but well placed for a play off push.
They are at ninth placed Rushall Olympic on Saturday and then travel to sixth in the table Grantham Town on Tuesday.
“Rushall were here watching us last Saturday, it’ll be a tough game but also tough for them as well, they’ll play it similar to Alfreton and we’ll go there looking to win for we need to back up these last two results,” said Kirkwood.
Matlock will add Joe Doyle-Charles to their squad in place of Taylor after Doyle-Charles completed his three match ban in midweek. Michael Williams is expected to be available after missing the Alfreton win with a hip injury and Curtis Morrison is also back after being cup tied in midweek.
Meanwhile defender Kevin Grocott has been released and has rejoined Mickleover Sports.