Wednesday 3rd November 2010
There's two very good reasons why Matlock Town will want Saturday's visitors Hucknall Town to feel the backlash from the midweek home FA Trophy replay defeat to Kendal Town.
They will want a return to winning ways to keep up the pressure on the leading clubs, but also to celebrate a major milestone for their popular skipper James Lukic (pictured left), for whom it will be his 500th appearance for the Gladiators.
Kendal returned to the Lake District victorious after a narrow 2-1 win which saw Matlock's hopes of a much awaited local derby at neighbours and Blue Square North leaders Alfreton in the next round go down the pan.
Matlock manager Mark Atkins had said after the weekend's 1-1 draw at the Lakeland Radio Stadium that he felt Matlock had played well enough to have gone through at the first time of asking. He maintained that even after a not as convincing performance as on Saturday, his team should still have progressed.
"Over the two games, we've not played badly, the lads showed full commitment and high desire levels.
"Obviously though we shot ourselves in the foot by conceding two poor goals when we didn't pick up from the free kick for their first and didn't clear our lines effectively for the second. But also a big decision has gone against us, the ball was clearly over the line, and we should have been given the goal.
But there's nothing we can do about it, things like that happen at this level.
"The defeat was a big disappointment, you can accept it if someone plays you off the park, you hold your hands up and say the better team won. But we've conceded the goals through bad errors and then not had the chance to come back with that bad decision at the other end. The ball was a mile over the line!"
Ross Hannah scored in both ties to take his season's tally to twenty and fourteen in his last six appearances. Of Matlock's last eighteen goals, Hannah has contributed all but four and Atkins agrees that goals are also needed from other areas.
"Ross is taking his chances and we're all very pleased for him, but he and the team does need that extra help from other areas, so that's something we'll be working on and trying to address" Atkins admitted.
Hucknall are having a torrid time on the road with just one away win so far this season, 4-0 at Buxton. They are without a win in their last eight away matches, losing five on the trot.
Atkins says it is important that Matlock approach the derby game in the right way.
"It will be another tough game, there's no easy ones in this league." he warned.
"They may be having a bad time of it away from home but they've got good experienced players and it's up to us to win the battle first and then start playing our game. I saw them earlier this season and they looked a decent side."
The sixteen on duty in the Kendal games could be supplemented by the return of both Kris Bowler and Danny Wood after knee injuries.
For 27-year-old Lukic, Saturday will be a special day.
Not many players, especially at non-league level end up playing 500 games for one club, a point made by Atkins in his tribute to the talismatic central defender.
"It's a magnificent achievement at any level, never mind non league where players tend to move more between clubs. He's a magnificent captain, a fantastic player, he's one hundred per cent for this club and I have to say that it's an absolute pleasure to say he's my captain.
"He's also a quiet lad and a lovely family man. He looks after them so well. He has my sincere congratulations in reaching this major milestone."
Lukic has had just one season away at Gainsborough Trinity during 2008/09 but Atkins was quick to secure his services when the chance to sign him came up in the summer of 2009.
Atkins' assistant, Mark Haran, himself a veteran of over 600 appearances, but for a number of clubs, reckons that Lukic has it all.
"Of all the many centre halves I've played with - and there's been a lot in my non league career - Lukey's definitely one of the most all round good centre halves I've come across.
"He's a true leader of men and a model professional. You couldn't meet a nicer guy off the field and he's got Matlock Town Football Club firmly in his heart."
Chairman Tom Wright says Lukic is a true clubman.
"It's not often we get the chance to celebrate a player making 500 appearances for our club and James deserves all the accolades and tributes he's getting. It's a tremendous landmark for him.
"Over the years he's been Mr Matlock Town, coming up through the ranks and making his first team debut at just sixteen years of age. Circumstances dictated that not long afterwards he got thrust into the heat and battle of the Northern Premier League and he's just got better and better.
"It's been a real privilege to watch him and have him at our club and we hope he'll be part of the furniture here for years to come."
Lukic though preferred to remain silent ahead of his big day.
"We've lost tonight and I'd rather concentrate on us getting the right result on Saturday, I don't want us to lose again." was all that he would say for now, but no doubt he will have his own anecdotes and memories to share with people in the weeks ahead.
A special James Lukic tribute brochure is on sale at Saturday's game priced £1.00.
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