Coach: Next four games are crucial

MATLOCK RFC 1sts are entering a crucial four-week period that could decide whether they finish in the top six or not.

That’s the opinion of coach Alan Johnson as his players prepare to welcome Kettering to Cromford Meadows on Saturday, weather permitting.

The Northamptonshire side currently occupies second spot in the Midlands One East with Matlock in sixth.

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The game is followed by another home game, against Loughborough, and then away games to two local rivals, leaders Derby and Ilkeston.

Matlock were due to play at Derby last Saturday but the cold weather put paid to that. Both sides were keen to play but it just wasn’t to be, a fact that has left coach Johnson and the players frustrated but still in positive frame of mind as they look to build on the previous weekend’s 55-9 thrashing of Peterborough.

Alan Johnson explained: “It was a little frustrating to be kicking our heels because we were still upbeat from the Peterborough win and we were just about back to full strength because Alex Powell had declared himself fit on the Thursday.

“He’s one of our most experienced players and he brings so much to the sort of game we want to play.”

“But I think it was something minus two degrees when the inspection was carried so it was no real surprise when it was off.

“Derby were keen to play it too but we think that’s been rearranged for February 25 so that’s not too far away now.

“This Saturday’s there’s no let-up as we play second-placed Kettering at Cromford Meadows. We let ourselves down a bit when we played at their place.

“We were leading at half-time, as we have done in so many of the games we have lost this season. We didn’t play with our heads in the second half or play smart rugby and we paid the penalty.

“But we are positive about the game, looking to go into the match with a clear gameplan and we aim to stick to it.

“Although the match was off on Saturday, we got a lot of the lads down to the clubhouse to watch the international rugby and to keep that togetherness there, which was good.”

He contined: “We are very positive going into a really key period for us. Kettering and Loughborough at home, followed by Ilkeston and Derby away, could decide whether we finish in the top six or not.

“I’ve said it before but I think we are a very good side. I say this without arrogance because we are not like that at all. But the forwards have a real buzz about them and are confident they can take on just about any pack in the league. We also have destructive backs when it all clicks.

“To be honest, I think I’d be distraught if we didn’t finish in the top six.

“Looking back to our pre-season thoughts, we felt that sixth or seventh would not have been a bad position to aim for but now we’re here, we think we can push even higher in the remainder of the season.

“We want to stay in the top six and maybe make amends for some of the performances that have disappointed us up to now.”

Weather permitting, Saturday’s match at Cromford Meadows gets under way at 2.15pm.