Cup glory beckons once again for Matlock Town this weekend as they look to be giantkillers at National League Premier outfit Solihull Moors in the first round of the FA Trophy.
Matlock’s best cup season for years has brought them in just shy of £25,000 in prize money, having reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup, while in the FA Trophy wins over Spennymoor Town, Grantham Town and, most notably, FC Halifax Town in a third qualifying round replay last week, have set up Saturday’s clash.
Joint manager Glenn Kirkwood concedes the Gladiators will travel to the West Midlands as underdogs, but says his side will “give it a real go” as they did in both matches against Halifax as they knocked the current holders out of this season’s competition.
“It’s a free ride, we’re not expected to win, but we’ll give it our best shot, a real go, testing ourselves against a side two leagues higher and we’ll see how we fare,” he said.
Solihull have also had their cup glory this term, their FA Cup run coming to an end in the second round proper at Luton Town last weekend.
The Moors were remarkably two goals in front at the interval and sensing an historic triumph, but the Hatters turned the match around in style, scoring six second half goals to shatter the Moors’ dreams.
“It’ll be mega-tough but we’ve nothing to fear, we’ll go there and do our best to express ourselves,” added Kirkwood.
“It’ll be a nice day out for the fans who I’m sure will get behind us. We hope to create another upset.”
Preparations for the tie have not been the best for the Gladiators, who will need to check on the fitness of Dwayne Wiley after he came off after just 19 minutes with a hamstring complaint in the Derbyshire Senior Cup victory at Ilkeston on Tuesday.
Winger Ted Cribley may have to work while on loan striker Curtis Morrison has returned to Chesterfield following the end of his loan spell with the Gladiators.
“Curtis has been outstanding for us,” said Kirkwood. “He’s an outstanding young professional. We all wish him well and thank him for what he’s contributed to our team.
“We hope to see him on Match Of The Day sometime and I’d like to think we’ve played some part in his development.”
With Morrison departing, Matlock have brought in 19-year-old pacy forward Cameron Johnson from Boston United, who was given a debut at Ilkeston.
A former Doncaster Rovers junior, Johnson was knocking in the goals for NCEL First Division Rossington Main before joining the Pilgrims.
“He did well and you could see what he’s all about,” said Kirkwood.
“He’s young, eager, and sharp. He was a little bit rusty but we think we’ve got a good player on our hands.”
Last Saturday a physical Stafford side beat Matlock 2-0 at Marston Road in what was an off-day for the visitors before the Senior Cup win.
“We knew what to expect but it was a game too far,” said Kirkwood.
“The lads had worked so hard on the previous Saturday and Tuesday against Halifax, perhaps giving the lads Thursday off when we could have had them in for some gentle work was a mistake on mine and Hoppo’s part.
“We looked heavy-legged, but credit to Stafford, they stopped us from playing and they were fresh, big, strong and physical.
“It was really disappointing, but had we scored the penalty or either of Jake Green’s or Michael Williams’ shots had gone in at 1-0 down, we may have gone on and won it. But it wasn’t to be and their second goal killed us.”
On the Ilkeston win he added: “Again we knew what to expect, although it was a different kind of game.
“It proved to be a good test and we’re happy to get through.
“We scored two brilliant goals, but in the first half we were sloppy before being a lot better in the second half.
“It’s a competition we want to progress in, but ideally we would have liked to have given one or two more players a bit of a rest, such as Liam Marsden, whose played in nearly every game.
“We might have been able to but Alex Pursehouse rang in ill. But we’re through.
“Ilkeston though have some fine young players who certainly gave us a very good game.”
Meanwhile Matlock have won the NPL Premier Division’s November Fair Play award after collecting just four cautions in six competitive games played.
They will be presented with their certificate at a forthcoming home fixture.