Perfect month for Gladiators

Ross Hannah v Marine. 26.02.11
Ross Hannah v Marine. 26.02.11

A PERFECT February has given Matlock Town an excellent chance of making the play-offs but boss Mark Atkins is taking nothing for granted.

The Gladiators won all six of their league and cup games, which brought a valuable haul of 12 points and a semi-final place in the Evo-Stik League Challenge Cup.

Last Saturday’s fine 4-2 victory at Marine saw them leapfrog their hosts and Colwyn Bay to move temporarily into second, a position now occupied by North Ferriby United after a 2-1 win at Bradford Park Avenue on Monday. Results generally went well for Town on Tuesday when Buxton and Northwich Victoria drew 2-2 and Worksop drew 0-0 at FC Halifax. FC United of Manchester appear to be a major threat now after a sixth successive league win, 4-1 at Nantwich, moved them into a menacing sixth spot.

Atkins insists, though, it is a case of taking one game at a time. “Nothing is won at the end of February. There’s still 14 more league games left and a lot of points to play for. We’ll take each game as it comes for we know we face a lot of tough games before the end of the season, whether it be against fellow play-off contenders or clubs battling to stay in this division. There’s no easy games and that’s been proved this past few weeks. Even Retford was hard, given the conditions we faced when we got there. But the players are focused and want to cement the position we’re in.”

Ross Hannah hit another treble to take his tally to a massive 42 in league and cup for the season. He also passed the century mark in Gladiators’ colours and needs just eight more goals this season to surpass Bobby Mountain’s record haul of 49 in a season, set back in 1982-83.

“Ross has been fantastic ever since I came to the club,” said Atkins. “He’s really improved as a player. He scored with three great finishes at Marine and was very unlucky to see another shot hit a post. if he can break that record, not only will it be great for Ross, it will also probably mean we’re putting more points on the board.”

The Town manager was not entirely satisfied with the performance at Marine, but agreed it was an excellent result for his side.

“It was a great three points. We knew we faced a tough week so to come away with six points is a tremendous achievement. Attacking wise, on Saturday we were dangerous and aggressive every time we went forward. We were positive and, in Anthony Wilson and Ross Hannah, we had a potent partnership. Defensively though, I was very disappointed with us, particularly in the first half when we were sloppy all over the pitch, totally different to Tuesday when we were great defensively but not as hot going forward. When Marine made it 2-2, it was a wake-up call for us. Then there was only going to be one winner. Ross took those two goals superbly. We knuckled down and it’s worth praising the determination and character of the players.”

Matlock face another play-off rival on Saturday when Northwich Victoria visit the Reynolds Stadium. The Gladiators will be seeking a league double after a 3-2 win in October. While Matlock have had the rare luxury of a free midweek, the Vics follow their game at Buxton with a League Cup quarter final tie at Skelmersdale United tonight (Thursday).

Atkins said. “The game up there could have gone either way but we nicked it in the last minute, so again we know we’ll have another tough challenge.”

Then, on Wednesday, Matlock have a rearranged game at Whitby Town, with the Seasiders desperate for points. Supporters wishing to travel to North Yorkshire can book their places on the coach at Saturday’s game, Wednesday’s departure time is 3pm from the Reynolds Stadium.

Finally, Atkins is hopeful striker Anthony Wilson, who has been on loan from Alfreton, will be able to stay for a second month.

Wilson himself, speaking after the win at Marine, said he was enjoying his football at Matlock and would like to stay on if possible.