Matlock boss Steve Kittrick maintains that just one league win could see an upturn in his side’s poor run of league results, which has seen them slide down the BetVictor NPL Premier Division table.
After winning their opening four league games and reaching top spot, they have since won only three more times in 16 outings, collecting 12 points and now find themselves down in 16th spot and looking a little anxiously over their shoulders.
The 2-1 win at Bamber Bridge on December 21 was a vital three points and gave the Gladiators hope that their barren league run might be coming to an end. But a Boxing Day home defeat by Buxton and a New Year’s Day loss at Gainsborough Trinity has set them back again.
“I don’t think it will take much,” Kittrick insisted.
“Probably a scruffy win. But we’ll take that. We have to keep on being positive, we have a positive dressing room. We just have to start winning games again.”
Kittrick said he would agree with a suggestion that his squad is currently underachieving.
“I think that’s right but we’ve got to stop making the mistakes that are killing us in nearly every game,” he said. “We should have got something at Gainsborough. Teams seem to get about us and we don’t deal with it. Both goals could have been avoided, we didn’t pick the centre forward up who headed in for the first goal and we had plenty of chances to put the ball in Row Z for the second. We’d just equalised and I thought we could even have gone on and won it. At the very least we should have shut up shop, been nice and tight and gone home with a point.”
The Matlock boss has no doubts the results will come.
He said: “Things will come right. The players have all the confidence they need to play from me, we need to return to the form we were in at the start of the season. We don’t want to get into a dogfight with the bottom four or five when we have enough out there on the pitch to be doing better. The players have a responsibility out there on the pitch just as I have the responsibility to get things right.”
Kittrick admitted that he was faced with probably “the hardest decision I have ever had to make” when he recalled first choice goalkeeper Jon Stewart in place of young Dan Wallis for the Gainsborough clash.
Stewart had been out for a month through suspension and Wallis was brought in, playing a starring role in Matlock’s epic penalty shoot out victory in the Buildbase FA Trophy replay at Conference National Chorley.
“It was a very difficult call to make,” Kittrick added.
“Dan had come in and had done very well. But it was also a case of balancing the books. Jon was my first choice goalkeeper at the start of the season and is on contract. He’s served his suspension and was back at his old club. Also being without Dwayne Wiley we felt he would give us that extra presence and help us defensively.”
Wiley damaged his hamstring in the Buxton game and while he will not be fit to feature in this weekend’s home meeting with Basford United, the Gladiators remain hopeful he will be able to return in the near future. Midfielder Jack Rea should be back in action at around the same time as Wiley, although winger Tomas Poole was added to the injury list with calf trouble after the Gainsborough defeat.
“We’ve had players missing, Dwayne and Jack are both very good players and an integral part of what we do. Tucker (Poole) felt his calf tightening up and although he came off initially as a precaution, we don’t know how long he’ll be out. But we’ve just got to get on with it and try and get the three points we need against Basford.”
Matlock have beaten Basford twice in the early part of the season when results were going in their favour. A classic Piteu Crouz free kick decided the first league encounter in August before, in early September, a Spencer Harris penalty followed by a strike from Jordan Sinnott gave Matlock a 2-0 lead in the FA Cup, Liam Hearn’s penalty being a consolation for Basford.
The Nottingham side are currently in fourth spot, six points adrift of leaders South Shields, and the sides will meet at Basford in the Integro League Cup a week on Tuesday. The game has been put back 24 hours from the original Monday, January 13 date.
Before then, on Saturday, January 11, the Gladiators will be looking for more FA Trophy glory when they visit Conference National Eastleigh.
Transport has been arranged for supporters to make the trip to the Silverlake Stadium leaving the Proctor Cars Stadium at 8.30am. Bookings can be made through the club shop or by contacting Bryn Apperley on 07795 377893. Admission prices for the game have been set at £10 for adults, £5 concessions and £3 for under-18s. Matlock will be wearing their away strip of white shirts, navy shorts and white and navy socks. If a replay is required it will be at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday, January 14 meaning that a new date will be needed for the Integro Cup tie at Basford.