A perfect February has given Matlock Town an excellent chance of making the end of season play-offs but manager Mark Atkins is taking nothing for granted.
The Gladiators won all six of their league and cup games, four of them bringing 12 valuable points in their charge for the play offs. Last weekend’s 4-2 victory at Marine saw them overtake both their hosts and Colwyn Bay and take over second spot, but for Atkins it is a case of carrying on the good work and taking one game at a time.
He said: “We’re up to second but nothing is won at the end of February. There’s still 14 league games left and a lot of points to play for.
“We’ll take each game as it comes for we know we face a lot of tough games now before the end of the season, whether it be against play off contenders or clubs battling to stay in the division. There’s no easy games and it’s been the same this past few weeks. Even Retford was hard given the conditions we faced there. But the players are focused and want to cement the position we’re in.”
Ross Hannah hit another treble to take his season’s goals tally to 42 and pass the century mark for the Gladiators. Hannah now needs just eight more to beat Bobby Mountain’s record tally in a a season of 49 in 1982/83.
Atkins said: “Ross has been fantastic ever since I came to the club. He’s really improved as a player. He scored with three great finishes at Marine and also hit a post. If he can break that record it’ll be great not only for Ross, but it will probably mean that we’re putting more points on the board.”
The manager was not entirely satisfied with the performance at Marine but agreed that it was an excellent result for his side.
He said: “It was a great three points. We knew we faced a tough week with two away games at Colwyn Bay and Marine so to come away with six points is a tremendous achievement.
“Attacking wise on Saturday we were dangerous and aggressive every time we went forward. We were positive and in Anthony Wilson and Ross Hannah we had a potent partnership. Defensively though I was very disappointed with us, particularly in the first half when we were sloppy all over the pitch but particularly from set plays, totally different to Tuesday night when we were great defensively but not so hot going forward. when they made it 2-2 just after half time it was a wake up call for us.
“Then there was only going to be one winner, Ross took those two goals superbly. We knuckled down and it’s worth praising the character and the determination of the players whose battling qualities ensured we won the game.”
Matlock face yet another play-off rival on Saturday when Northwich Victoria visit the Reynolds Stadium.
While the Gladiators have a free midweek in the build up to the weekend, Vics had two games, visiting Buxton in the league on Tuesday before facing another trip, to Skelmersdale United in the League Cup quarter finals tonight (Thursday).
Then on Wednesday Matlock have a rearranged game at Whitby.
Matlock hope that both Kris Bowler and Lee Featherstone will have recovered from leg and ankle injuries respectively in time for the weekend, particularly as either could replace the departed Ben Algar at left back. Algar jetted off to America earlier this week to join FC New York.