Luton test for the Gladiators

Matlock town v Mansfield town in the FA trophy replay
Matlock town v Mansfield town in the FA trophy replay

Non-league giants and former top flight club Luton Town are in town next week in the FA Trophy but Matlock Town have two probably less attractive but important challenges first.

The Hatters beat Dorchester Town 3-1 at Kenilworth Road in Tuesday night’s First Round replay to set up the Gladiators’ biggest game in many years.

But Mark Atkins’s men need league points after losing their last two games against Hednesford and Whitby to leave them in 17th spot, three places below and one point behind this weekend’s visitors to the Reynolds Stadium, Stafford Rangers.

Then, on Tuesday night, Matlock’s Derbyshire Senior Cup campaign gets under way at Evo-Stik NPL First Division South play off hopefuls Gresley FC.

“Stafford’s a big game,” Atkins admitted.

“It’s a game we must be looking to get three points from.

“Stafford beat us narrowly at their place so we’ll be looking to avenge that defeat for it’s a game we shouldn’t have lost. It’s important we get back to winning ways especially at home.”

Atkins believes the Gresley game has come at a bad time, just four days before the big game against Luton.

“It’s a competition we can win and always a good night out both for the players an the fans at a good ground if you can get through to the final,” said Atkins, who is well aware that Matlock have faltered at the first hurdle in the last two seasons, against Glapwell and New Mills, after lifting the trophy at Pride Park in 2009-10.

“We’ll just have to see how we are after Saturday by looking after one or two of the players, but we’re still good enough to get a result, whatever side we field,” he continued.

Atkins chose to “look after” three of his stars at Whitby.

Skipper James Lukic, whose back had troubled him earlier in the season, was left behind after collecting a knock in the Mansfield triumph, while two more “victims”, Glyn Cotton and Micky Harcourt were named as substitutes.

The Town boss agreed that the performance had a touch of “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” about it, but thought it was probably expected.

“It was a difficult game on a heavy pitch and tough conditions given the effort the lads had put in on the previous Saturday and Tuesday. Some of the lads looked tired at training on Thursday so we knew it would be difficult but we gave them the goal. we huffed and puffed and I suppose it was an indication that in the end we deserved a point with the Whitby keeper being named man of the match. The performance was probably understandable, things have gone well recently. We’ve not given up which is pleasing and I can’t really fault the lads in the past six or seven weeks.”

A booking in the Mansfield win for Massiah McDonald took him to ten for the season meaning he will not only sit out the Gresley tie, but the Luton game as well.

“It’s unfortunate but he does need to be a bit more careful. Some of them have been for tackling back but one or two have been for dissent and a silly booking against Mansfield means he now misses the biggest game of the season” said Atkins who has allowed young striker Liam Wilkin to go to Ossett Albion.

“I’d sorted out a loan deal for Liam with another club but Ossett also put seven days notice in for him. He wanted to play for Ossett so we couldn’t help that” Atkins added.