Matlock boss Mark Atkins pulled no punches this week as he prepares his side for two tough away matches to begin the end-of-season run-in.
A poor run of just one win in ten league outings has seen the Gladiators slide down to 13th spot. Now Atkins wants his players to stand up and be counted.
“Every game’s a cup final now for us” he warned, adding: “We’re not kidding ourselves that we’re too good a side to become involved in a relegation battle.
“Recent results have shown that we’re not a good side, we’re not playing anywhere near good enough.
“I want us to get some points on board now rather than later.
“We’re all well aware that we need to improve.”
With the sub-zero weather conditions putting off their games for the last two weekends, the latest being last Saturday’s home meeting with Whitby Town, Atkins has used training sessions to drill these messages home.
The run-in starts with trips to Chorley on Saturday followed by North Ferriby United on Tuesday night.
Great home results against both clubs will give Atkins and the fans heart, with a Nathan Joynes hat-trick plus a Chris Bettney effort seeing off the play-off chasing Magpies by a 4-0 margin, while Ian Holmes netted twice with Liam King striking in between to see off Ferriby 3-0.
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“Against Chorley was probably the best we’ve played all season, and we’d love to repeat that on Saturday, but they’re not up near the top for nothing. They’re a good side and we need to go there and be on top of our game. Nathan was on fire that day, unfortunately we won’t have him with us on Saturday for he’s booked in for his knee operation next week which rules him out for the rest of the season. But he’ll be an important player for us and we want him back next season fully fit and raring to go. We got another good result against North Ferriby but it’s always tough up there. But we go into the games with just about a fully fit squad with Chris Bettney, Kris Bowler and Gareth Davies all training well in the last fortnight. So that means we’ve got competition for places and that’s something we badly need.”
International clearance came through for giant defender Laurence Gaughan, who had been playing for Galway in Ireland this season.
“Laurence would have been involved against Whitby had the game been on” Atkins explained. “He’s played at a very good standard being a pro at Liverpool as a youngster. He’s 6’3” so his height’s an obvious asset, but he’s also good on the ball and can play in a number of positions which is great for us as well.”
Leaving Matlock is midfielder Harry Winter, who had been playing on a match to match arrangement while still with Blue Square North leaders Hyde. Winter has signed for First Division North table toppers AFC Fylde.
“We knew all along that Harry was with us on a match to match basis and to be honest the travelling from Manchester and not driving was a problem for him so it’s no surprise he’s signed for a club in the north west,” said Atkins, who was disappointed to reveal that a seven day target had joined another club. However he was hoping to talk to another player once that seven day period had elapsed.