Friday 29th October 2010
by Ian Richardson
Mark Atkins will be looking for his Matlock side to bounce back quickly and positively from their first away defeat of the season against Worksop on Wednesday in Saturday's FA Trophy clash at Kendal.
The Gladiators were clearly second best at Cannon Park when, for a change recently, Ross Hannah failed to ink his name on the scoresheet. But it's still an ultra impressive twelve goals in the last four matches for Matlock's striking talisman.
Having beaten both Nantwich Town and Ossett Town to catapult from eleventh to third in the Evo-Stik Premier Division table, Matlock simply could not get going against a hungry Worksop, undoubtedly eager to impress new boss Martin MacIntosh.
"We've had a good run away from home which we knew would end sometime and we weren't fully at the races on the night." Atkins admitted. "We got off to a poor start and were all over the place defensively, allowing Worksop too much space to run into. Worksop were the better team. If I'm looking for positives, it was that we kept going, but Worksop defended so well that we didn't create any real clear cut chances. It was a disappointing night, us and everyone else will have them sometime, but we're still up there challenging around the top five."
Dene Cropper headed Matlock's consolation for his third goal this season against his former employees, but it was virtually the last "kick" of the game and came too late to have any impact on the final result. Although Hannah's scoring run ended, Atkins was still full of praise for his leading marksman.
"His work rate was again terrific and although he couldn't fashion a chance, he was still great and played very well." said Atkins who said that Worksop's goals came from individual mistakes.
"Generally over the season, we've been good defensively, we've got a good defensive record so we can't be doing that bad." he countered when asked about Matlock's recent increase in goals conceded, compared to the start of the campaign when they let in just three goals in their first six league matches.
Hannah hit both goals as Matlock beat Ossett 2-0 at the Reynolds Stadium last weekend, a result which satisfied Atkins.
"You never get a good game with Ossett, they'll battle and spoil, so to get a really comfortable 2-0 victory was verty pleasing."
Kendal are in tip top form at present, following up their 4-1 home win against Bradford Park Avenue last weekend with a staggering 6-1 thrashing of league leaders Northwich Victoria in Cheshire on Tuesday.
The Lake District side have made the play offs in the last two seasons and are up there challenging again, so the difficulty of the Trophy game is not lost on Atkins.
"They've been one of the top teams for two or three years now and like to play good football so we know we face a really tough game, but it's one we're looking forward to. We know we need to be on top of our game but I'm confident we can go there and get a result. The bonus of winning will not only be the prize money (£3,000) but more good publicity like we've had in recent weeks."
Matlock will have to give late checks to both Kris Bowler (knee) and Lee Featherstone (hip). Bowler was replaced by Colin Marrison, who has completed his three match ban, at half time against Ossett, while Featherstone was forced off late in the Worksop game. If a replay is needed, it will be at The Reynolds Stadium on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile Atkins has tried again, in vain, to bring back striker Ian Holmes after a successful 2006/07 season when he finished as the Gladiators' top scorer before moving to Mansfield Town.
Since then Holmes has had a loan spell at AFC Telford, a permanent period at Eastwood Town before it looked like a short move across the Erewash Valley to Ilkeston last summer. But Ilkeston's financial problems and subsequent winding up saw Holmes join Evo-Stik First Division South promotion hopefuls Glapwell, where he has been banging in the goals again.
"I was hoping to sign Ian, but he's not come back to me, so it looks like there'll be nothing happening on that score. I'm happy with the squad I've got at present, although injuries or loss of form might see us strengthen." said Atkins.
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RARING TO GO -
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