It’s deja-vu for Matlock Town after another outstanding cup victory on Tuesday night which saw them deservedly beat holders Alfreton Town in the Derbyshire Senior Cup, writes Ian Richardson.
Just seven days earlier, Matlock had thrashed Basford 5-0 in the Integro NPL Cup to boost hopes that their awful league form would receive an upturn at Scarborough Athletic last Saturday.
But those hopes were crushed by a poor first half performance which saw them 2-0 down at half time before debutant Nathan Valentine, a Friday signing from Stalybridge Celtic, scored against one of his former clubs to reduce the deficit early in the second half.
The Gladiators could not complete the recovery though as Marcus Marshall was sent off midway through the half for apparently making an abusive gesture to the crowd while being booked for a foul. All in all it led to a disappointing return to Scarborough for Matlock boss Steve Kittrick.
The Scarborough defeat left Matlock in an unhealthy fourth bottom spot having collected just 12 points out of the last 54 on offer having won their opening four matches to top the table at the start of the campaign.
“Our first half performance let us down at Scarborough when we made them look good, that’s what happens when you stand 10 or 15 yards off the opposition players,” said Kittrick.
“We also had two injured players in Jack Rea and Tucker (Tomas Poole) so possibly I’ve got to hold my hands up and changed it earlier. Then we were playing much better in the second half, we got a goal back and had Marshy stayed on I felt we’d have gone on and won the game.”
Kittrick was much happier with the Alfreton performance as midfielder Valentine scored again inside the opening three minutes before Marshall and youngster James Tague added further goals. Alfreton reduced the arrears on the hour but had left themselves too much to do to have any chance of retaining the trophy.
“It was a great performance on Tuesday but we’d played well in the second half at Scarborough,” said Kittrick. “When we play teams that play football we’re a better side, we’ve got some very good players here. We asked them to be warriors and be brave, everyone’s put a shift in and we looked like we are, a very good side.”
The fight for league points gathers more pace with vital matches at Mickleover Sports on Saturday followed by a trip to Grantham Town on Tuesday evening.
After going through a sticky patch themselves, Mickleover have found form to win four out of their last five matches to stand eighth in the table. Goals from Dan Bramall, Luke Hinsley and Sam Scrivens were enough for Matlock to come out on top in the October 12 game at the Proctor Cars Stadium. The Grantham game represents a re-run of the fog abandoned match in November when Matlock held a 2-1 lead with a little under half an hour left. Grantham are just one place and one point ahead of the Gladiators having played two more games and have won just once of their last eight league outings.
“They’re all big games, we don’t want to start putting a lot of pressure on people in the situation we’re in. We all know it’s important we start picking up points in the league as soon as we can , although I don’t feel we deserve to be where we are. But it is what it is and we’ve got to deal with it. We need to take the form we showed at Eastleigh, at Basford and against Alfreton into the game on Saturday and the league games which follow.”
Eighteen years old James Tague played a starring role in the Alfreton win, playing a key part in the first two goals before scoring his first for the Gladiators for their third.
“James is a young lad who’s been with us all season, he came knocking on my door saying he wanted to play. He said stick me in there and he’s done really well having played very well down at Basford last week. He was getting a bit tired so we took him off so he’ll be okay for Saturday, He said trust me, so I trusted him and the kid’s done tremendous, got around the pitch, I’m really pleased for him. He’s got to keep on doing what he says he can do on the tin.”
Kittrick will be waiting on fitness checks on full back Ben Gordon(groin), Jack Rea (ankle) and Jordan Sinnott (ankle) before naming his side for Mickleover. Definitely out will be top scorer Marcus Marshall who starts a suspension after his red card at Scarborough.
Marshall was taking some abuse from the crowd as he was being booked for a foul and he admits he should not have reacted with the gesture.
“It was silly and I sincerely apologise to everyone, the manager, the staff, the rest of the players, board and fans. I got frustrated and just reacted, looking back now I know I shouldn’t have” said Marshall.
Kittrick praised Tuesday’s referee, Heanor based Danny Middleton in his post match comment.
“He’s the best we’ve had all season, he was excellent. When Dwayne and their player were being aggressive with one another in the second half, he handled the situation brilliantly. At Scarborough when Marshy was sent off I felt the referee could have used his man management skills a little better. Marcus should have known better, he’s apologised to everybody but I felt it could have been handled a lot better like the situation in the Alfreton game.”
Matlock will face South Normanton Athletic at home in the Derbyshire Senior Cup semi final with a provisional date of 11 February while they will travel to Worksop Town in the last sixteen of the NPL Integro Cup on a date to be confirmed.