Matlock’s new goalkeeping coach Adam Sollitt echoed the thoughts of managerial duo and an increasing band of fans that believe the Gladiators’ pre-season work is showing signs of bearing fruit.
Performances have shown a continued upward curve since the home defeat by Nuneaton Town a fortnight ago and, although Matlock are yet to register a win in five outings, displays against Mansfield Town, Chesterfield, Burton Albion and FC Halifax Town should leave them in good stead.
The season opener at Corby Town is now a little over two weeks away.
Solitt said: “It’s about players getting minutes under their belts, that’s why we’ve played five games so far, so the lads can get familiar with each other, particularly with all of the changes that have been made.
“Their workrate’s improving all the time, it’s top notch and a pattern to their play will develop only by playing games.”
Matlock lost 2-1 to Burton Albion last Saturday, Albion’s decider coming nine minutes from time while in midweek, the Gladiators deservedly held AFC Halifax Town to a 2-2 draw.
“Saturday’s was a great performance, we kept our shape against a top, well organised Championship side,” said Solitt. “Then on Tuesday it was more like a league game, Halifax began on the front foot and we let ourselves down with the goal we conceded by not picking the ball up from the big man’s (Tom Denton’s) header.
“So at 1-0 down we were disappointed, but our heads didn’t drop. Dwayne Wiley did ever so well to cut the ball across for Marc Newsham. Now Marc’s got two gaols in two games so that should give him confidence for the next match.
“We made changes in the second half and still looked very decent. Again, we’re not happy with the second goal but it’s one of those situations where a young lad gets caught in two minds. But we kept on going and Toddy’s done great for the second goal.
“It’s down to good old fashioned hard work, the games are coming thick and fast and I believe we’re definitely going on the right direction but everything’s aimed at doing well at Corby in the first game of the season.”
Matlock made another new signing after the Halifax draw when 20-year-old trialist striker Ben Partridge signed on the dotted line. Once with Chesterfield where his father John once played, Partridge has also represented the Nike Academy.
His aggressive running helped to unhinge the Halifax defence as Matlock successfully sought a second equaliser. Competition for places in the starting line up is certainly enhanced and with Matlock’s remaining four pre-season opponents being at least one rung below them on the non-League ladder, opportunity knocks for Matlock to see more of the ball instead of the other way around, as has been the case for periods in games thus far.
Tonight (Thursday), Matlock travel to NCEL Premier Division Worksop Town before going to Evo-Stik NPL First Division South Sheffield on Saturday.
The NCEL-First Division South running order is maintained for the final two matches against Staveley MW on Tuesday before a trip to Belper Town seven days later.
“People will now be striving to get their names on the team sheet and that’s what it’s all about,” Sollitt added. “Now we’re going to teams from lower divisions and now we’ve got to see what we’re like when we have the opportunity to take games to them.”
Goalkeeper Phil Barnes could miss the Worksop game after exacerbating a knee injury on Tuesday from the Burton match. If Barnes is out 16-year-old Jordan Pierrpoint may be handed a start. Alex Pursehouse and Jake Green will also undergo fitness tests.