It’s derby day at the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday as Matlock Town and Ilkeston FC do battle with both clubs in the play-off positions after Monday and Tuesday’s results.
The Robins have the slightest of advantages as, like Matlock, they have 26 points from 15 games played and a goal difference of plus ten. But Kevin Wilson’s men have scored nine more goals, which hands them fourth spot.
Matlock might have gone top had they won at table-topping Skelmersdale on Tuesday night but a first defeat in seven matches, albeit undeserved and due to an 83rd minute strike from midfielder Ashley Dunn, dashed their hopes.
“It was a tight game and perhaps we didn’t do quite enough to win it, but we deserved a point,” said Gladiators manager Mark Atkins.
“We didn’t create enough chances in spite of being in control for the first 20 odd minutes of the second-half, having gone in deservedly level at half-time.
“But one moment of slackness cost us. We deserved a draw and were unlucky when Micky Harcourt hit the post in the first-half and when Oscar Radford’s shot was turned round a post just after-half time. But they got the winner and now we must show we can respond.”
And Atkins believes his players can.
“I’ve every confidence that the lads can do just that,” he insisted.
“We have 18 players all capable of doing a job for us and we must now bounce back and show that we are worthy of our place near the top of the table.”
Possibly Matlock didn’t do themselves justice on the night for as the game developed they looked well capable of coming home with a point.
“They didn’t look as good as Fylde or Chorley but also you can’t take it away from them as they’re not top of the table for nothing,” Atkins continued.
One player eager to do well on Saturday is current leading scorer Daryll Thomas, a former Ilkeston player who has netted ten times for Matlock this season after his move from Belper Town in the summer.
“I can’t wait” was Thomas’s sole comment after Ilkeston boss Kevin Wilson allegedly labelled him not good enough for the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division.
Atkins added: “All I can say is that I’ve been really pleased with Daryl since he joined us. He’s been bright and scored some great goals and that’s all I can ask for.”
Meanwhile, the Gladiators have been drawn at home in the FA Trophy second qualifying round against Calor Gas Southern Premier Division outfit St Neots Town.
Matlock were awarded the first qualifying round match against Hinckley United without kicking a ball as the Knitters had been wound up in the High Court.
St Neots are near the bottom of the league but Atkins won’t be counting his chickens.
He added: “It’s a home tie but it’s only a good draw for us if we get through. Obviously that’s our intention as we all enjoyed our run in the Trophy last year.”
Matlock have re-signed attacking player Bradley Grayson following a successful spell in Sweden.
Grayson scored 24 goals for professional side Ange IF as they won promotion from Sweden’s third tier, narrowly missing out on the Golden Boot.
His international clearance was received in time for him to appear as a substitute at Skelmersdale on Tuesday, and Atkins is delighted to see him return to challenge for a regular spot in the Gladiators line-up.
He said: “I’ve been in constant contact with Brad and now his signing has come through I’m sure he can offer us a different option whether it be wide or down the middle, so that’s a real bonus for us.”
Hopes that last season’s leading marksman Lewis McMahon might be involved against Ilkeston FC on Saturday look slim, although Atkins says he continues to make sound progress after an ankle injury sustained in the drawe at home to Frickley Athletic on September 21.
It could be that McMahon will feature in the FA Trophy tie with St Neots.
Following the clash at home to Ilkeston on Saturday, Matlock will host Ashton United at the Reynolds Stadium on Tuesday night (29th), with United currently sitting in 15th spot going into the weekend’s matches.