Make no bones about it, Matlock Town need to beat Whitby in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off (1pm) at the Reynolds Stadium.
After a fantastic February which saw them win four successive league games and two in the Evo-Stik League Challenge Cup to earn boss Mark Atkins the manager of the month award, it’s been a miserable March as six games have brought a mean tally of just four points.
A home draw with Northwich on the first Saturday of the month was followed by victory at Whitby in the following midweek. But then it started to go all wrong for the Gladiators who succumbed to a late goal to lose 1-0 at Kendal before Buxton, Bradford Park Avenue and North Ferriby United have all beaten Matlock by the same 3-1 margin.
Atkins’ men, in fifth spot, are clinging on to the final play-off place by the skin of their teeth but now FC United of Manchester and Worksop Town could both overtake them by winning their games in hand. FC United might just have done that last night if they had won at Whitby.
While there is still time to put things right, Matlock skipper James Lukic agrees that a win on Saturday is essential.
He said: “We are gutted with recent results. We’d got ourselves into a good position but at present we seem to be throwing it all away. So we’ve got to go out and win on Saturday. Other teams are going to have bad patches. let’s hope we’ve had ours now.’’
Matlock should be boosted by the return of the league’s top scorer, Ross Hannah, who scored his 45th goal of the campaign by giving his side an early lead at Bradford last weekend. But later in the match he was forced off with a tweaked hamstring and had to sit out the Ferriby defeat when scouts from Oldham Athletic among others had turned up to keep tabs on the Gladiators prize asset.
Atkins added to his squad as promised last Friday when he brought in 6ft 4in striker John McAliskey on loan from Northwich Victoria for the rest of the season and also made a permanent signing in winger Ryan Mallon from Worksop Town. Both made their debuts at Bradford although McAliskey’s was cut short after the referee threatened to send him off after 30 odd minutes for persistent fouling.
Atkins said: “We had no choice other than to bring him off as the referee was going to send him off before long. To have to substitute him because the referee was threatening to send him off was an absolute disgrace, but we couldn’t afford him to be sent off. We had six players booked, Bradford just one and yet there wasn’t a dirty tackle in the game.’’
Matlock could now face a punishment from the Football Association for their six yellow cards.
On McAliskey and Mallon, Atkins said they would prove to be two good additions.
“Both John and Ryan will give us that bit more quality,” Atkins declared.
The new club will be open for its first Matlock Town game against Whitby when after the early kick off, the Wales v England Euro 2012 qualifier will be shown on TV. Fans can gain details relating to membership by seeing Graham or Phil in the bar.