Wednesday 5th January 2011
by Ian Richardson
Matlock boss Mark Atkins (left) rose from his sick bed on Monday to orchestrate a vital home win against Burscough, and then was back in it straight after the match.
Atkins is just one of several members of the Gladiators dressing room suffering from winter flu like effects, and the boss did not even make it to last Saturday's clash at Mickleover which ended in a 1-0 defeat for his charges.
He revealed that it was time for some straight talking after losing in Derby, as lowly Sports inflicted only a second away defeat of the season on Matlock and a first league double.
"Monday's was a very big game for us especially after being beaten on Saturday" Atkins revealed. "I'd said in the week before that we wanted six points from the two games, nothing less would be good enough. I couldn't say as much about the Mickleover performance as I wasn't there due to illness, but the reports I received back from several sources were ones of a lack of effort and desire and that is plainly unacceptable.
"If you get beat giving everything then you hold your hands up and say the better side won. But I was told the players let themselves down and I let them know that I wasn't prepared to put up with that kind of performance."
Nick Buxton was in charge on Saturday with his selection options severely restricted. Both Lee Featherstone and captain James Lukic were serving the final games of disciplinary bans while the likes of stand in skipper Steve Warne, Gareth Davies and Dene Cropper were suffering from chest infections.
Those options were hardly improved for the Burscough visit as Lukic was missing with a back spasm injury which will make him doubtful again on Saturday when the Gladiators travel to Frickley Athletic.
Warne, who lasted just an hour at Mickleover, had recovered sufficiently to start and at least his personal luck changed as he grabbed his first goal of the campaign to put Matlock in front shortly before the interval. But a foot injury robbed Town of Kris Witcombe's services; Cropper was again ruled out, while Kris Bowler was forced off with a dead leg after only half an hour.
"I'm pleased to say that the lads took on board what we'd told them beforehand to fully deserve their win on Monday" Atkins reflected. "There was a lot of coughing and spluttering in the dressing room afterwards, the lads had put everything in."
The win against Burscough was finished off by a late winner from substitute Nathan Joynes which was sufficient to see Town return to sixth after dropping briefly to seventh over the weekend. A busy January lies ahead and it is now important that Matlock build on this massive victory.
Witcombe's injury meant that Atkins handed a full debut to Ben Turner who didn't disappoint with a man of the match performance in the number two shirt.
Atkins said he had no reservations about including the former Burton Albion youngster.
"Ben came to us in pre season and then went elsewhere briefly before deciding he wanted to be with us. It's important that you bed in young lads who've been at league clubs nice and quietly as it can be difficult coming from a league club to play at this level.
"He was man of the match by a country mile, I'd no hesitation in putting him in. There were other encouraging performances too. We're chuffed for Steve Warne now that he's got his first goal of the season, quite honestly he could be up to ten goals now with the chances he's had.
"He never stops giving 100% in every game, his goal was a great team goal and it's credit to him that he took to the field on Saturday and gave us an hour that was exceptional.
"I was also delighted for Lee Morris who came here to prove himself and we gave him a deal which was far less than he'd been on previously. He's come to play football, he's filled in on the right of midfield and never complained, before on Monday we put him in his usual position up front and he was excellent.
His contribution in nodding the ball to Nathan Joynes for the winner was outstanding as was his workrate and effort throughout. And Joynesy did well to come on and get the winner, he'd been playing well in most of the games previously and the goal was a good reward for him.
Morris will be returning to one of his old clubs on Saturday and although Atkins says that it will probably be a different kind of Frickley side now that new boss Peter Rinkcavage has taken over, he still expects a tough battle.
"Peter has brought new players in so they'll probably play more football than before but it's always tough at Frickley. It's the sort of place where you have to go and win the battle first before hopefully your football can do the talking and that's something I'll be impressing on the players."
Play off rivals North Ferriby United are due at the Reynolds Stadium on Tuesday night.
"The games are coming thick and fast and we'll be up against a side who've been excellent in the last three or four years in reaching the play offs on a couple of occasions. It'll be a good test, they've got great movement and play how we like and want to play, they're not a big side, a bit like us at the moment with the injuries we've got."
Atkins had been hoping to add a loan player to his squad before the Mickleover match but the move fell through due to injuries at his parent club.
"We're back to square one in that regard, we were hoping to bring the lad in for a month but his club have three injuries in their squad so they needed him to stay with them. that's on ice for now, but we'll see how things go."
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